Iím not much of a dancer. Actually, I can slow dance, but thatís usually the story with most guys, isnít it ladies? Give me anything with a fairly fast beat and Iím all left feet. Iím not really much for taking lessons and embarrassing myself in front of an entire class of people either. So when I heard about the new Mad Catz Beat Pad, I figured hey, why not. Iíll give it a try. Well, Iím still a bad dancer, but I had a heck of a lot of fun playing around with this optional controller for the PlayStation 2 (it also works with the PlayStation and PlayStation 1).
The Beat Pad takes the place of the usual game controller and plugs into the PlayStation in the same manner. Itís made of a soft, foldable (but not machine washable) fabric, inside of which are a series of pressure-sensitive electronic switches. There are ten switches altogether, each corresponding to buttons found on a hand-held controller. The Start and Select switches are located at the top of the Pad, out of the way so that you donít step on them accidentally. The remaining eight switches form sort of a tic-tac-toe configuration and correspond to the usual four directional arrows and four action buttons (X, O, Triangle, and Square). Step forward, back, left, or right, and you trigger the up, down, left, and right arrow buttons, respectively. Stepping diagonally triggers one of the four action buttons: X (upper-left), O (upper-right), Triangle (lower-left), and Square (lower-right). The configuration takes a little getting used to and personally I would have liked to have the X button on the right side of the Pad (either upper or lower) since that is the most often used action button and Iím more comfortable using my right leg.
With dance and music games, however, the button configuration doesnít matter much since you trigger many different button combinations when learning dance moves. I experienced this first hand while trying to match the moves of Ms. Spears in her recent Britneyís Dance Beat game release. Like I said, Iím not a dancer so Iím glad I was able to test this product in the privacy of my own home. I have to admit that I actually had some fun moving to the beat in my black cotton socks (wearing shoes on the Beat Pad is not recommended). I can certainly see where young kids would have a blast with this alternate controller and their favorite dance software. But I wanted to explore a bit further to see if the Pad could be used with other types of games.
Since the Beat Pad works just like a standard controller, triggering the same corresponding buttons, there is no reason it canít be used to play most any game. Actually, thatís not entirely true, especially when playing action games because as I mentioned earlier, the button configuration on the Pad isnít conducive to fast triggering. I did find, however, find a situation in which adults might enjoy the Pad, and that is when playing DVD-Video based games, such as the ones offered by Digital Leisure. Remember the old laser disc arcade games like Dragonís Lair? Well, theyíve all been transferred to DVD and are playable on the PlayStation 2. And since DVD-Video games use standard controller buttons (ie. arrow and action buttons) to signify moves, these games lend themselves very well to the Beat Pad. I had a load of fun maneuvering Dirk the Daring through the castle in Dragonís Lair using the Beat Pad. Step forward, back, left or right, and Dirk follows your moves. Step on the X action button, and Dirk uses his sword to slay any deadly monsters in his path. The Beat Pad actually put me in the game.
Of course, you may not like dance, music, or DVD-Video games, and in which case you probably wouldnít get much use out of the Beat Pad. It is definitely a niche controller. But for a mere $20, the Beat Pad definitely brings a lot of extra fun to those of us that do delve in the dance or DVD-Video game genres.