Danger: Game Ninjas
For some people gaming is a doddle, they can pick up a joystick, pad or keyboard and within a few hours claim to have beaten titles like Fable or The Chronicles of Riddick - they are the elite gaming gods and gurus that leave their peers standing slack-jawed as they burn through hordes of enemies in seconds leaving a trail of ash in their wake.
But for others gaming can be somewhat of a chore, or they look for new ways to pour life into an old and much loved title - holding onto it in the vain hope that a button press cheat will be released that increases the head size or allows them to leap seven-hundred feet into the air.
Button press codes are becoming a rarity and interesting unlocks/Easter-eggs are joining them sadly as the gaming industry continues to track down a road to a strange and in some cases unpredictable future.
Thankfully those delightful chaps at Datel (the Codejunkies) have been there for as long as I can remember, hacking away at thousands and thousands of lines of game code to pick apart the juicy secrets hidden in most titles for a variety of platforms, PS2, Xbox - you name it Datel have been at the forefront of cheating technology for a number of years.
This isn't an article on if cheating is morally right or hideously wrong, no, this is an article that focuses upon a nice little bit of kit that dropped through my door the other day and deserves to be looked at in some depth.
Datel's Action Replay Max for Gamecube
I will stress now that this little device is a disk, memory card combination pack and the card doubles as a 64MB mem-card for the Cube.
Ease of use
One thing I look for in any hardware and software is ease of use, in this day and age with masses of new technology leaping around the corner like blood-crazed Ninja-hamsters it does no good to have a product that requires the intellect of a NASA scientist to operate so right from the start - they got it right with this little gizmo.
You insert the memory card, drop in the disk and you're away. It's that simple, and then you can choose from a few options. The most interesting of these is the Freeloader, allowing you to play Import games from any region on your Gamecube without resorting to other means. This gets my thumbs up right away, since I happen to despise region encoding with a passion but understand that companies have to increase their sales figures, so by staggering releases they create demand - or so they think.
The AR MAX is superbly easy to use and that's all I need to say, the manual walks you through all the features and with handy hints, on screen prompts and other such helpful advice you can't go far wrong.
Can I cheat my games with this?
Yes. Yes you can, hit the Action Replay Codes section and choose your region from the three provided, US, Euro and Japanese and you're away into the list of pre-loaded codes - if you don't have a code don't worry, the Codejunkies have come to your rescue.
The Codejunkies website lists all the latest codes, cheats and news for the AR series for any console. Find the game you want, grab the codes and enter the codes using the controller.
Entering codes is simple, after you've added the game you want, you get to move a cursor over a VR keyboard (unless you bought a Gamecube keyboard of course) to enter codes - choose the codes you want to enter, add them all and turn them on.
Get something wrong and the software refuses to let you continue until you've checked the lines and rectified your mistake. Finally when you're happy with your selection, press the start button, follow the on screen instructions and you should be able to enjoy a world of cheaty-goodness.
The bottom line is: it's easy to use.
During testing I had no problems with crashes during the games I tried this on. Resident Evil 4, Skies of Arcadia, Metroid, Tales of Symphonia. If there are crashes there's a chance that a code is conflicting with others and you need to work out which one it is, turn it off and you should be fine.
It performed admirably and ran like a charm, there were no glitches and bugs, the interface and menus are cunningly designed and feel natural - in short, it's the best there is and you don't need to worry about problems either - if something happens you can reset the cheats to the factory default and all you have to do in that case is re-enter them, rather than needing to buy a new AR.
There really isn't much more I can say on this, the product does what it says on the tin and does it without fuss. A testament to the hard working folks at Datel who have made a living on feeding gamer's desire to cheat, and to be honest there's nothing wrong with that - if you want to prolong a game's life by making it so you can alter the way it pays in some way, shape or form, then its your right - you brought it.
But as a point in general, don't go cheating in online games, that's where you never win and you always lose.
As Codejunkies say. "We never issue cheats for online gaming as this spoils the experience for everyone else."