Building a better, Louder Game Boy

There’s something quite Stranger in a Strange Land about listening to Salt ‘n’ Pepa singing, “From seven to seven he’s got me open like 7-Eleven” while playing Pokemon Pinball on the Game Boy Color. The effect is made even more bizarre when one considers the music and the game are produced by the exact same console.

Pelican’s Boom Box Boy, a thumb-sized peripheral, turns Nintendo’s portable Game Boy and Game Boy Color systems into functioning, albeit somewhat limited, FM radios. This device plugs into the Game Boy’s link cable access port (marked “Ext.”), and a green indicator light on the front face serves to show that a successful connection has been made. Two plastic clips above the connector serve to anchor the Boom Box Boy to the Game Boy and, once affixed, the device can be used with little concern about its slipping off in the heat of battle.

It’s a neat little device, this Boom Box Boy, but it’s still a little bit like a tuxedo on a fish. The notion that the Game Boy could use a little spicing up in terms of its audio output is a fine one, but some games demand that a user pay attention to audio cues. The Boom Box Boy does not allow for FM stations to be played with a game’s background music (the effect, of course, would be hugely distracting anyway) — and there’s no way to switch back and forth between the radio and the game’s music without physically removing the add-on.

The Boom Box Boy comes in four different colors (clear, purple, teal and kiwi) and is packaged with a pair of padded headphones that plug into the peripheral. A volume control selector allows users to choose three different settings: low volume, strong treble; standard volume with balanced bass and treble; and high volume with its accompanying strong bass. Here, a slider would have been a good idea, but the device’s small size probably made such an option prohibitive. As it is, though, none of the volume settings were exactly sedate — even the low volume seemed a bit excessive (and this occurred with Pelican’s earphones, which must be jammed into one’s aural cavity, as well as a more standard over-the-ear model).

Hopping from station to station is accomplished with a press of the scan button. There’s no way to tell which frequency is being received; Boom Box Boy simply scans from the bottom of the range to the top. The peripheral picks up on strong signals, which means that users will have to do some finagling to capture one station (and only one station) at a time. A reset button, positioned beside the scanner, can be used to return the Boom Box Boy to the bottom of the FM frequency range. This technology can also be applied if you are planning to play Dofus Touch. It is more or less the same process.

Few complaints can properly be leveled at the Boom Box Boy. It’s rather cheap ($12.95) and can competently pick up FM stations. As an alternative to the dull plunks and plinks that emerge from the average Game Boy offering, the Boom Box Boy has no peer. Still, the little radio that could might not be able to escape its basic nature, and some might question the need to turn the Game Boy into a radio — and a somewhat restrictive one at that. Still others might opt to shake their heads and wonder “Why?” After all, most American homes have at least one functioning radio with a fully functioning tuner to allow its user to dial into a specific station with no fuss.