A Round-Up of the Latest Light Peripherals for the Game Boy Advance
By Chi Kong Lui and Dale Weir
Nintendo's eagerly anticipated Game Boy Advance launched without a hitch this past June in the U.S. There were plenty of units and quality games available on launch day and the $99 price point was not at all prohibitive to potential consumers. Only one thing marred an otherwise flawless debut. When gamers eventually plugged their game carts into their Game Boy Advances, they were met by surprisingly dark screens—sometimes even too dark to be conducive to playing in the daytime. Since Nintendo is unlikely to do anything to fix the LCD screen anytime soon, the only recourse for consumers is to purchase a Game Boy light from one of the leading peripheral manufacturers. Given the spotty record of third-party accessories, two members of the GameCritics.com staff have put together a quick rundown of the most popular lights on the market today and reveal which provides the most bang for the buck.
Chi says: Out of the four lights we tested for this round-up, I felt the Nuby Cobra Advance Light was by far the worst. The first thing I noticed about this product was the cheesy "cobra" appearance and shoddy construction of the cheap-looking plastic pieces. I also found the Cobra to be clunky in use and an absolute bitch to remove.
As far as the quality of lighting was concerned, it tested as the dimmest of the bunch. In its marketing materials, the Cobra pushes its self-proclaimed non-reflective glare feature the hardest, but I’m not convinced of the design. Its mirror-the-light-source solution only works in the most typical light angles and holding positions, but to lay claim as to having resolved the "glare dot" problem altogether with its patented design borderlines on consumer fraud. In many angles and positions, the "glare dot" is still openly apparent. Either way this is a moot point since the quality of light is just plain bad any way you shine it.
Dale says: I found the Cobra Advance Light to be competent. I thought the design was clever. The light emanates from the neck and reflects off a mirror on the underside of an adjustable hood. The idea here is to remove glare by having a light source that is just as strong from almost any angle but doesn't have to sit over the screen. This reduces the glare that plagues most of the other lights. However, because it has to travel from the neck to the mirror and then down to the screen, the light is not very bright once it gets there.
Chi doesn't exaggerate when he relays the difficulties he experienced in removing this light. It's connectors are made of some very inflexible material that—get this—must be squeezed or flexed in order to remove the unit. Once you connect this thing, it is there for good. It's no surprise that Nuby built a power switch into the unit similar to what Pelican did with its Light Shield.
Chi says: This is my pick for the overall best Game Boy Advance light thus far. I was impressed by the solid folding design and construction of the plastic parts. I also loved the slick button mechanism that allows for easy detachment from the GBA.
The actual light (which uses a white LED bulb) tested as being one of the brightest in our round-up. The folding shield approach makes light positioning a no-brainer and also manages to diffuse the "glare-dot" way above the actual screen of the GBA. The lighting at the edges of the screen is noticeably weaker, but still decently adequate.
The only problem with the Glow Guard is that it doesn’t physically shield the screen once it’s folded down. The protruding light keeps the shield from laying flat across the screen. Of course this isn’t really an issue if you’re only concerned about using this as a light and not as a protective measure.
Dale says: The Glow Guard is the second of the two Game Boy Advance light/shields that we tested. The "guard" aspect of the Glow Guard seems pretty useless because the light protrudes awkwardly when in the folded position. It lies flush against the screen and if some pressure is applied to the back of the Glow Guard while in this position, it will likely do damage to the screen.
The light is very bright, about as bright as the Worm Light Advance, and has the advantage of better adjustability than the other lights. The light can easily be folded forward or back to provide a better light source and eliminate glare. Such a simple design makes it a snap to use and the lack of extra parts make it a nice choice to carry around with you.
Chi says: In my book, the Nyko Worm Light Advance is an extremely close second-place finisher behind the Interact Glow Guard. From the moment I removed it from its packaging, I was amazed by its size (it is the smallest one in our round-up) and the quality of its construction. Once I plugged it in, I was also impressed by its performance. The brightness of the light was probably the best of the group (significantly better than the Pelican and Nuby models while only marginally better than the Interact one).
The glare-dot is still a problem, but it’s not as negative as everyone (including Dale) makes it out to be. Since the light is much brighter than the original Worm Light and the Game Boy Advance screen is so much larger, I found it rather easy to position the glare-dot off screen and produced what I consider to be more than acceptable results. In fact, if you place high value on portability, the Worm Light Advance is arguably the best of the bunch.
Dale says: The Worm Light Advance is the unofficial favorite among Game Boy Advance owners and receives my highest rating among the lights tested. However, I would argue it did so due more to familiarity than technical merit. The Worm Light Advance is essentially the same as its predecessor for the Game Boy Color that is currently on store shelves—a light that was a favorite with Game Boy users as well. Since I am familiar with that particular light, the Worm Light Advance both suffers and benefits by arriving unchanged.
The Worm Light Advance has a simple design. From its base that plugged into the Game Boy, it's neck coiled into a light that hung partially over the screen. Its neck could be bent and positioned for optimal lighting and given its small size and solid construction, it could be taken anywhere. The problem is that the light, for all of its maneuverability, casts an unforgiving glare that lies in the middle the screen. No matter how I tried to crane the coiled neck, the glare was always there. What's worse is that the light itself sits over the Game Boy Advance screen meaning that you have to look at the screen from an angle to begin with. The only time the glare or light was not an obstruction was when the light was pointed away from the screen.
Still, for all of its downside, the Worm Light Advance casts a bright spotlight that evenly covers most of the screen and its low power consumption makes it an above-average choice in a field of sub-par peripherals.
Chi says: Much to my surprise, on most Game Boy-related newsgroups, the Pelican Light Shield appears to be the front-running favorite. I couldn’t disagree more. Out of the four lights we tested, I felt this was one of the worst. The construction appears cheap and the quality of lighting, while diffused evenly across the Game Boy Advance screen, was also WAY too dim. Vision may be permanently impaired by using the peripheral’s dull yellow light too long.
The Pelican model functions decently as a shield, but that’s of little consolation when its main purpose of lighting is substandard.
Dale says: Pelican's Light Shield tries to use duality as a selling point to prospective customers—the Light Shield is both a light and a screen protector, while in its down position. As is the case with most all-in-one pieces of technology, the Light Shield tries to wear two hats and fails at both. Unlike the rest of the lights we tested, the Light Shield uses a yellow light. Not only does this light have an adverse effect by muddying bright colors on the screen, it also drains batteries faster than any of the lights tested. That is quite ironic considering the Light Shield is the dimmest light we tested—why it has a brightness control is anyone's guess.
Pelican was gracious enough to incorporate a power switch that, on the surface, looks like a considerate feature to allow for battery conservation. I, however, can see an ulterior motive here. I had the damnedest time trying to disconnect the Light Shield from the Game Boy Advance and I figure Pelican knew this and wanted to facilitate a way for users to keep it on their Game Boy forever.
As a shield, the Light Shield is quite capable. In a "closed" position, only the outer edges come into contact with the Game Boy Advance screen, leaving the LCD screen unscathed. That said, I couldn't give the light a very good grade because I am sure more people care about the light aspect of the peripheral than the shield—in which case, the Light Shield fails miserably.