Product Review: ‘Level Up’ with a tidy video game towerBudgeteer editor Matthew R. Perrine takes a look at Slam Brands’ Level Up Storage Tower for the Xbox 360. PLUS: A “reprint” of Perrine’s now-legendary* column from 2008 about video game dorks.
May 4, 2008, is a date I will never forget. That was when I officially came out of the closet as a “video game dork.” I wrote a column for the Budgeteer (attached below) in which I confessed, among other things, my undying love for the medium.
Happily (embarrassingly?), what I wrote then is probably even truer today. Ever since that fateful day, my collection of video game systems, games and accessories has only grown — and I’m guessing that, if it were up to my understanding (to a point) fiancée, the word “exponentially” would be used to describe said growth….
If you’re in a similar situation, wishing to avoid future domestic squabbles about "clutter" as well, I suggest you check out Slam Brands’ line of space-saving storage towers for video game addicts of all colors.
Though Slam Brands manufactures storage solutions for all three of the major video game systems, the product I got my hands on was the Level Up Zig-Zag, a tower that handles Xbox 360 consoles, games and controllers (both of the standard variety and those cumbersome “Guitar Hero” peripherals).
In more-precise terms, if you have one console, 13 games, four regular controllers and two fake guitars and don’t know what to do with yourself, this is the product for you.
Without further ado, here are my findings:
• In all honesty, the Zig-Zag looks pretty cool. While the product isn’t officially licensed by Microsoft (unlike the Wii and PS3 models, which carry their respective system logos), this tower does sport a fancy black-and-neon-green color scheme that’s welcome in my “man cave” anytime.
• The storage bay for the console is both recessed and ventilated. This is a good thing. Lord knows how much Microsoft has struggled with overheating-hardware complaints.
• The two hooks on the side for “Guitar Hero”/“Rock Band”/“Rock Revolution”/“Rock of the Dead”/et al. guitar controllers are a nice touch. Nothing is more annoying than tripping over plastic instruments.
• Assembly was a snap — literally: The Zig-Zag model primarily consists of a dozen plastic pieces that snap into place. (You will need a screwdriver to attach the two guitar “holsters,” but, honestly, if you don’t own one of those yet, you probably shouldn’t be playing with anything electrical.)
• Its plastic components are pretty tough. Not that I already knocked my tower over or anything….
• The slots for game storage are a little tight. If some disgruntled gamer out there tries to extract a title that’s wedged into his or her Zig-Zag, the whole tower might come down in the ensuing battle.
• In its “recommended” configuration (games on top, Xbox on bottom), the Zig-Zag holds only 13 games. Now, you can remove the console from the equation and double that figure, but, honestly, even space for 26 is a little limiting for most hardcore gamers — especially now that most software prices seem to get slashed in half mere months after their release dates.
• Something I didn’t mention earlier about assembly is that there is a slightly annoying step you’re supposed to go through if you want your Zig-Zag to be prim and proper. There are two neon-green “gaskets” (big rubber bands, basically) that run around the top and bottom of the tower and are kind of a pain in the butt to install. Now, these are purely aesthetic in nature, so you could easily forget them, but … you’d only be cheating yourself. And you wouldn’t want to lose sleep over that, now would you?
• If you wish to house your console in this tower, there’s no place to put your HD DVD add-on player. … What? I’m the only one still rocking this dead format? Nevermind, then — scratch this entire entry.
• Nothing, really. Outside of the funky neon-green rubber bands, this is a pretty solid setup for most gamers’ needs.
… But you don’t have to take my word for it
On the Toys “R” Us website’s page for this product (www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=4275710, to be accurate), “Mom of Two Great Kids” from Arlington, Texas, wrote: “This product was a great purchase. … It has helped my son keep a lot more organized than before. Plus, it has helped with the problem we had with the Xbox from tipping/falling over and scratching the disc [inside].”
See www.levelupgear.com for more information on Slam Brands’ complete line of video game storage towers.
*This "now-legendary" business isn’t true … not in the slightest.
Unleash your inner video game dork
Note: This column (also by Matthew R. Perrine) was originally published in the Duluth Budgeteer News May 4, 2008.
For fans of “Grand Theft Auto,” it’s sure a great time to be alive.
The latest installment of the popular video game series, “IV,” released Tuesday, is blowing up on the spot. It has received almost flawless reviews across the board — threatening to dethrone “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” as the best-reviewed game of all time — and, proving that Rockstar Games’ rumored $100 million spent on production was worth it, Guinness World Records is closely watching its launch (as the game is expected to beat out “Halo 3’s” $300 million first-week sales mark).
As someone who started with the original “GTA” a decade ago, the release of this monumental game is indeed a time to celebrate.
In fact, I had originally wanted to call this column “Video Games Have Warped My Fragile Little Mind” and delve into the greater social aspects of the series, but that “noble” idea failed for one very important reason: I’m not that deep.
If you want to find out if all that simulated violence is actually detrimental to one’s health, I suggest you read Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson’s “Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do.” I haven’t had the chance to check it out myself yet, but the authors were interviewed on G4’s show “X-Play” and they both appeared very informed and level-headed (i.e. no vendetta against the game industry).
Instead, I’m using the release of “GTA IV” as an opportunity to take a trip down memory lane. For people who grew up with Mario and the other inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom — and who appreciate the music of the Advantage and every second of Kyle Cease’s comedy masterpiece “Generation Nintendo” — this is where we get nostalgic.
My first video game memory, similar to that of many 20-somethings, is of playing “Super Mario Bros.” and “Duck Hunt” on the Nintendo Entertainment System. I can’t say exactly when my parents broke down and bought my sister and me one (I vaguely remember begging for one for a few years), but, seeing as how its cheapest model retailed for $199 at launch, I feel extremely privileged just to have had one in the first place. Considering inflation, the latest generation of consoles — which range from $249 to $399 for the base models — almost seem like a steal in comparison.
From the NES and the myriad memories it produced (I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention “Super Mario Bros. 3,” “Bionic Commando” and “A Boy and His Blob”), my sister Emily and I then graduated to Sega’s 16-bit Genesis system in the early ’90s.
While it was a technically a birthday present for her, I managed to get my hands on it from time to time — in all honesty, probably way too often for her taste.
Solitary affairs like “Lightening Force” were great fun, but it was the two-player action of “Zombies Ate My Neighbors,” “Streets of Rage II” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” that was really memorable.
I mean, if you’re going to be wasting away your life sitting in front of a TV, you may as well be doing it with a friend … right?
However, those games’ multiplayer action was nothing compared to that of the SNES staple “Super Mario Kart,” which my good buddy Dan had ready access to.
Needless to say, we spent hours on his parents’ big-screen throwing turtle shells at each other. (Don’t ask; this was well before girls....)
Little did we know that, just five years later, that same TV would play host to an all-out grab-all-your-friends revolution. Of course, I’m talking about the four-player “GoldenEye 007,” which, until “Halo: Combat Evolved” dropped on the Xbox during our freshman year of college, was the multiplayer game of choice.
Nothing — I repeat, nothing — brings together friends like the ability to snipe and throw proximity mines at one another: Generation Nintendo had officially grown up. (At least a little; I mean, we were still playing video games and all.)
Of course, then came said girls, so electronic entertainment took a backseat for a while.
For space considerations, I’ll gloss over the next couple years (please forgive my sins, “GTA,” “Twisted Metal” and “Crash Bandicoot”) and skip to my reintroduction to the medium, which came with the aforementioned “Halo.”
See, whenever I’d go home to visit my girlfriend at the time, her brother and his friends were always playing that game. I was so out of touch with the scene — again, girls will do that to you… — that I had no idea how huge it already was.
Regardless, I liked it. A lot. Its stellar graphics and insanely inclusive nature (up to 16 players via four linked Xbox systems) blew “GoldenEye” out of the water.
Since then, my appreciation for the medium has only grown. From (even more) addictive multiplayer games, like “Fuzion Frenzy,” to the furious (fake) fretwork found within the “Guitar Hero” series, I’ve spent entirely too much time and money on what are usually considered “toys.”
But I don’t regret it one bit. Video games have a way of bringing family and friends together — especially with the Wii or “Rock Band” — and, at least for me, they provide a nice escape from today’s doom-and-gloom headlines (how’s that for biting the hand that feeds?).
While it feels great to officially be “out” as a bona fide game nerd, I gotta say: I’m really glad I “secured” a lady like mine before volunteering all of this information.
There are plenty of fish in the sea, but how many would be “cool” with their man going to Wal-Mart’s midnight release of “GTA IV” and using vacation time at work to take off the entire next day?