March 2nd, 2005, 03:39 Posted By: DaMadFiddler
The Internet abounds with reviews of games and other software, and even of hardware platforms themselves. However, when you're looking for something simpler, like a good case or screen protector, you're quite often left to take your chances alone. Therefore, as an owner of a number of random game accessories, I've decided to start reviewing some of the ones people are more likely to consider. Today's entry: the Pelican starter kit for Nintendo DS.
The Pelican kit for DS looks like a good deal right from the start--for $15-$20 (depending on where you purchase), it provides just about every accessory you can think of out of the box. It includes 2 extra stylii, 2 multi-game "armored" carrying cases, a car adaptor, headphones, screen protectors, and a carrying bag.
Pelican has a bit of a reputation for pushing products to market and then not offering any customer support to back them up...but things like these generally do not need tech. support--and besides, Pelican is responsible for my favorite GameBoy accessory: a very comfortable, rubberized, snap-on battery & ergonomic backplate for the original-model GBA.
Back information about the company aside, let's take a look at the individual components of the kit:
Car Power Adaptor
This is probably the main reason most people would buy the kit to begin with. The plug unit is very small and compact (especially when compared with the behemoth that is Nintendo's first-party version), and comes in a straight black design that will fit just fine with your DS or SP. The 6-foot cord should be long enough to fit most needs, so long as you're not trying to play from the back seat of a minivan. Though there is nothing remarkable about the unit, the build quality seems fine, and there were no problems getting it to plug in and work immediately and reliably. As an additional plus, the fuse is also removeable, so the unit is not worthless if your DS suffers a power surge.
To be honest, I have never been a particular fan of "earbud" style headphones, and generally just end up using the traditional-styled headphones that came packed in with my Sony Discman. The sound quality is passable--I've certainly heard worse, but they still leave something to be desired (especially in the bass range). The cord is roughly 5 feet long, which should be more than adequate either for playing games, or for using the DS as a music player from your pocket (via Play-Yan or GBA Movie Player).
This is a small, black nylon bag with a clasped drawstring and the Pelican logo emblazoned across the front. Designed for carrying the earbuds (why?), it almost seems like an afterthought thrown in for the sole purpose of upping the number Pelican could advertise as "items included" in the kit. The bag is too small to hold anything other than the headphones or an assortment of game cartridges (roughly 4-5 GBA carts, or a small handful of DS games). However, since the clasp is made out of a very cheap plastic, I'm not sure I'd entrust my games to this bag...and stowing the earbuds in here hardly seems worthwhile. This is probably the most useless item in the lot.
As I mentioned earlier, the kit comes with 2 extra stylii for your DS. These are notably longer and slightly thicker than the first-party DS stylus, and thus much easier to hold and manipulate. They also have a more pointed tip (making it easier to see what exactly you're pointing to onscreen), and a top clip for latching onto a pocket or other edge. The entire unit is very lightweight, and made out of a single, solid piece of plastic. These would actually be far preferable to the pack-in ones, were it not for the fact that they do not actually fit into the DS. They are too wide to fit into the stylus slot on the back of the DS, and thus must either be carried separately, or clipped precariously onto the outside of the unit. I ended up using these as extras for my Tapwave Zodiac, and keeping the factory originals with my DS.
Cartridge cases have been a very frequent and popular addition to the GameBoy market, ever since Nintendo stopped including first-party clamshells after the end of the original generation. The two "ESL" multi-cartridge cases included will do a great job of protecting your games from the elements, and are a great idea for camping trips or other outings where unwanted substances may take a shot at your games. The outside is a very thick, durable plastic, and the inside is lined with removable rubberized holders. One side of each case holds three GBA games, and the other holds three DS cards and has an additional slot for one of the included stylii (see above). However, since these inserts are removable, you could very easily modify them to have one all-DS case and one all-GBA case if you so choose. Games snap right in and are held very snugly--perhaps even too much so. Your games will most certainly be secure, but are somewhat of a pain to get back out again, because of how tightly they are gripped by the case.
The other big draw to the kit is that it comes with a set of adhesive screen protectors. There is one "top" and one "bottom" sheet included. Simply remove the protective backing, and apply the sheet to your screen. The top protector is very smooth and glossy, and contains the same black border as the screen it covers. The glue on this screen is concentrated around this border, so the edges are what stick. This creates a slight problem, as you cannot get the entire sheet pressed flush against the screen (resulting in bubbles). The best strategy is just to apply pressure to the edges where the glue is, and keep the center part from touching the screen. However, you will inevitably end up touching or tapping the screen by mistake, and creating bubbles in the screen. The bottom protector does not suffer this problem; it has a much thinner coat of adhesive, evenly distributed across its surface. The bottom protector is very durable, and does not scratch easily...or even show fingerprints. Of course, this will slightly lower the sensitivity of your touch screen, but most of the time this is not even noticeable. The texture is markedly different, though--where the screen itself is very smooth and easy to glide your finger across, the protector has more of a "Scotch tape" feel to it, which makes using the thumb-shoe in games like Mario 64 and Metroid Prime feel just a little bit odd. Also of note is the fact that this sheet does not seem quite large enough; it leaves about a millimeter of the screen exposed around the edges. One must wonder why Pelican did this, as it is very important to have a flat, consistent surface across a touchscreen. Both screens are removable and reusable, but (much to my disgust) I found that the "top" sheet left some residue behind. If you're planning to put these on, apply them carefully, work in a dust-free environment, and it's a good idea to leave them on.
Also included is a micro-fiber cleaning cloth. This is very similar to what you might find with a pair of glasses, or in a monitor/TV care kit. It does its job well, and does not leave any discernable marks or scratches behind.
All in all, the kit contains a number of mildly useful accessories, though the only one you're sure to get much use from in the long run is the car adaptor. There are many good ideas here, but unfortunately, most of them are poorly realized. This kit would be great if the screen protectors were designed a little more carefully, the game cases given a little more thumb room, and the stylii shaved down a little so that they could fit into the DS' carrying slot. If you were planning on picking up one or more of these items separately, it may still be worht your while, though--first-party screen sheets and a car adaptor alone are $10 each. As it stands, this is a frustratingly grand collection of almost-useful items.
OVERALL RATING: C+
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