In case you
havent seen this monstrosity before, the Hip Screen Pad is a game
controller with a monitor built into it that allows you to play games
without a TV. It is available for the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube now for
the price of $100. This review is for the Playstation 2 version of the
Hip Screen Pad, and Im sure the Xbox and GC versions will handle a bit
differently, so dont think what Im saying about the PS2 version
represents all of them. Got it? Good.
Now Im no big city peripheral
designer, but it seems to me that if you are going to add anything to a
game controller, the controller itself had better be worth owning. A
controller has to be comfortable and it has to perform its function
well. Once youve got that, then adding robot arms or a foosball table
or a little TV screen or whatever you want is easy to pull off. Sadly,
that is the biggest problem with the Hip Screen Pad: It isnt a very
good PS2 controller.
The Hip Screen Pad is shaped exactly like a Dual Shock 2 controller
save a few key differences. It is slightly larger and quite a bit
heavier, but these things dont really hurt it. The buttons are in the
same positions as a Dual Shock except the Start and Select buttons have
been moved slightly and there are turbo fire buttons as well. The
buttons themselves are the problem here. The buttons are stiff and do
not offer precise enough analog control for my liking. You have to
literally press the buttons all the way down before anything happens,
unlike the Dual Shock where light button presses are enough to get the
job done. You get used to it after a while, but even then it doesnt
offer precise enough analog control. Playing Metal Gear Solid 2 or Gran
Turismo 3 or any game that relies heavily on analog control is extremely
difficult with this controller. Another major problem with the Hip
Screen Pad is the directional pad. Like all of the other buttons, the
d-pad is extremely stiff. To put it simply, it is just plain
uncomfortable to use. The analog sticks perform well, though, but are
hard to press down just like all of the other buttons.
Like all controllers these days, the Hip Screen Pad has a rumble
feature. However, for the first time in my life, I was actually afraid
the controller was going to explode in my hands because of it. I was
playing Tony Hawks Pro Skater 4, a game that has quite a lot of
rumbling going on in it, and the controller started making horrible
noises. The motors inside the controller are extremely loud and aside
from the buzzing, there were also a lot of clicky noises as the
controller rattled around. The vibration was so severe that it nearly
shook the controller out of my hands. After that, I made sure to turn
the vibration feature off before I used the unit.
The real star of the show on the Hip Screen Pad, though, is the 2.6"
screen that allows you to play games or watch DVDs without a TV. The
screen is mounted on a pivot that allows you to position the screen at
whatever angle you want and then you can lock it in place. You can
adjust the color, brightness, and contrast of the screen and once you
have everything set the way you want it, the screen is actually pretty
good. It produces a surprisingly clear and sharp picture that makes
almost any game easy to see. It is sometimes hard to read text on the
screen, so RPGs or any other games with a lot of text arent the best
games to use with the Hip Screen Pad. Every other genre I tried worked
great, though. DVD movies also look pretty good on the tiny screen.
Dont expect a crystal clear picture, but for the size of the unit, the
picture that the Hip Screen Pad does produce is rather impressive.
There are also speakers mounted on either side of the screen along
with a headphone jack, but the sound it produces doesnt come close to
matching the high quality video. The sound that the speakers produce is
muddy and is downright awful. It manages to capture most of the bass and
some of the higher pitched tones, but everything else is drowned out.
Plugging headphones into the unit helps out quite a bit, but everything
still sounds a bit tinny and, quite simply, bad.
Hooking the controller up to your PS2 is more complicated than just
slapping it into one of the controller ports, but it is still pretty
easy. There is one cord going out from the controller itself that splits
into three separate cables. One hooks into a controller port, one hooks
directly do the A/V output on the back of the PS2 (with a pass-through
connector so you can hook more than one Hip Screen Pad to one PS2) and
the third cable goes to an AC adapter that you have to plug into a wall
outlet. Once it is all hooked up, all you have to do is turn the screen
on and boot up your PS2 game or DVD of choice.
The final, and most damning, blow to the Hip Screen Pad comes from a
lack of practicality. You can buy adapters that allow you to plug your
PS2 and the Hip Screen Pad into the cigarette lighter in your car so you
can play it on the road, but Im not too sure how well the PS2 would
perform on bumpy roads. The PSOne might do all right, though. If you are
dead set on taking your PS2 with you on the road, then you would
probably be better off getting one of the bigger screens available that
hook directly to the back of the system. They cost about the same amount
of money and would provide a much better experience than the Hip Screen
Pad can provide. If you are absolutely desperate, it will get the job
done, but there are other ways to keep yourself entertained on the way
to (or at) the next family reunion.
Overall, the Hip Screen Pad features a nice screen with crappy sound
all mounted on a junky controller. If you are absolutely desperate, you
can get used to its faults and learn to like it. There are a lot of
other options out there, though, so unless it drops down in price, the
Hip Screen Pad isnt really worth your money. The high price is entirely
due to the high quality video screen, but the rest of the package
doesnt meet that same high standard and that is what is the downfall of
the unit. I do like the rubberized grips on the back of the controller,
and the cool factor of it is very high, but as a video game controller,
the Hip Screen Pad is only average. If youre desperate, and can afford
the $100 price tag (and cant find one of the bigger screens), then
check it out.