Space Devilfish

Space Devilfish

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 3/12/2003 for PC  
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Aside from having a very unique name, Idizm’s Space Devilfish also has the benefit of featuring a very unique and ergonomic design that looks to replace your keyboard. Does this necessarily equate to a good product or should it be tossed into the bin of failed innovations? While you may want to hold on to that keyboard for a little while longer, we suggest you take a moment to notice this innovation.

You may be wondering about the strange name and from our best estimates, it was meant to coincide with the design. In some ways the device looks like a flattened sting ray which in some parts of the world, is called a devil fish. Oddly enough this design proved to be pretty ergonomic and as a whole, really comfortable and familiar.

The Devilfish is meant to cater to your left hand while the right hand is occupied with your mouse. While this product may seem to be marketed more towards FPS fans, there’s actually a use for it outside of the fun and gun realm. Each of the unit’s 36 buttons can be programmed to do a wide array of things. From single-key inputs, to text macros, to keyboard inputs, it essentially provides you with shortcuts for all of your favorite keyboard functions. Best of all, every individual button on the unit can be programmed to do anything you’d like in any program you’d like.

The unit itself is constructed of plastic and although it felt weak and cheap at first, it turned out to be pretty durable. We “accidentally” dropped the unit on our hardwood floors a few times throughout the duration of our review and it survived relatively unscathed. Because it is constructed of plastic, it’s relatively lightweight and won’t prove to be too much of a burden. The underside of the unit contains plastic clamps that are made so that you can wear the unit on your thigh. While the unit can also be placed on a table, we found that wearing the unit was actually the most comfortable way to go.

In a bold move, the unit features force feedback functionality. We had a difficult time getting it to work properly in many of our games so we can only imagine its effect. It’s a real shame too; our thighs could have really used a nice vibrating massage.

The unit connects to your PC via-USB and can actually work in conjunction with your keyboard. This means that it doesn’t override the functions of your keyboard. So let’s say you’re using your Devilfish in Medal of Honor and your buddy types you a message. You’re still able to lean over to your keyboard and type him a message without disrupting the Devilfish.

The layout of the unit itself is very FPS friendly. The buttons that were meant to replace the WSAD keys have been expanded and laid out in such a way as to be more comfortable for your fingers. The forward and backward keys, the O and the T, are oriented vertically to give your fingers a better feel for the movement. The arrangement of the surrounding buttons were nice enough to cater to more advanced functions of first person shooters, such as the lean, reload and activate functions.

In order to map out the buttons you’ll have to boot up the included profiler function. Essentially you tell the program which game you want to program the buttons for and enter it into its memory. After that, mapping out keys is as simple as clicking the button on the virtual layout of the unit and assigning it a function. What really hurt this program was the lack of included presets. We would have really loved it had the designers decided to add further support by providing their own presets for popular shooters such as Unreal Tournament 2003 or Medal of Honor Allied Assault. Without the inclusion of presets, you’ll have to program each and every individual function for every game you wish to use the Devilfish with. As you’ll soon find out, entering the usual WASD walk/strafe functions for every single game becomes frustrating rather quickly.
In order to test out the unit we popped in our copy of UT2003. After mapping out the keys to mimic our layout on the keyboard we were set. Our initial impressions were that the unit felt rather strange in our hands. It took quite a while for our fingers to become accustomed to the ergonomic design of the unit and the spacing of the buttons. We also had a difficult time familiarizing ourselves with the strange position of the CTRL and SPACE buttons on the unit, which serve as the jump and crouch functions in most games. After playing a few rounds we still had a difficult time adjusting to the layout, sometimes we’d accidentally hit the “dead space” between the buttons when we were trying to move forwards or sideways. With the foreign layout, we also had a difficult time of using our jumps effectively in combat. We often found ourselves glancing downward to check the position of the buttons as to assure that we were making the correct keystrokes.

It took us about an hour to finally become accustomed to the funky layout and spacing. After that, the unit really began to shine. Being able to play the game in a relaxed position in the backs of our chairs instead of having to be hunched over our keyboard really did wonders for our comfort levels as well. Pretty soon we found our hands becoming more and more attracted to the unit, enough to the point where going back to the keyboard felt like a significant downgrade as opposed to an upgrade. Playing games like MOH, Return to Castle Wolfenstein and No One Lives Forever 2 felt natural with the Devilfish. There’s not enough of an upgrade to make us give up our keyboards entirely, but enough to make us ponder doing so on more than a few occasions.

Let’s examine the consumer possibilities of this product. Surprisingly, we found it to be pretty useful, even when we’re not trying to snipe the heads off of moving targets. We wanted to get a feel for things so we booted up Photoshop and put it through its paces. Again what’s nice about the Devilfish is that each button can be programmed to perform not only single keystrokes, but also multi-input functions. This proved to be a timesaver as it put functions like cut, copy, paste and others at the points of our fingertips. Regarded that these functions aren’t hard too hard to perform and memorize, we were still pretty impressed at the amount of time that the unit was able to save us.

You can even use it with AIM so those of you who like to random chat can make a macro that says A/S/L so that you can save yourself some precious seconds. Likewise, the 13-year-old daughters of the guys who purchase this can also map out macros such as “LOL” “LOLOLOL” ROLF” “BRB” and the ever popular “TTYL” to various buttons on the unit. Strangely enough, after we received the unit back from John one of the macros said “Hey babe, I’m 27/w pic wanna cyber?” We really need to keep John away from the hardware.

The unit is perhaps most practical comes in most useful for those cramped LAN parties. An average LAN-party goer may have to lug around their box, their monitor, a mouse, and a set of speakers. There’s no use in adding in all that extra bulk and mass of the keyboard, especially when the majority of it doesn’t actually serve a purpose for gaming. That’s why you may want to check out the Devilfish which will provide all of the functionality of your average keyboard, and then some. It was a real space saver and as an added bonus, was actually more comfortable to use than the keyboard. The unit really served its purpose when it came to a lack of flat surfaces. Instead of having to place in on a desk or table we were able to just clamp it onto our thigh.
When installing the product we did happen to run into a few problems. Being the arrogant morons we are, we decided to plug the device into our USB port and let Windows handle the installation. As you’ll soon find out, this is a big mistake that you do not want to make. If you check the official website, you’ll see a notice that tells you not to plug the device in until prompted to by the installation program. If you do, Windows will put a false entry into the registry, causing you a huge headache.

The force feedback is also a big letdown considering the massive possibilities. Much like the iTouch mice, there’s plenty of potential to be had when it comes to input devices and first person shooters. Some console games such as HALO give you a satisfying rumble when you’re firing your weapons, wouldn’t it be nice to feel it in the PC-realm as well? We had trouble getting the Force Feedback to work with the majority of our programs, enough to the point where we just gave up on it entirely. Strangely enough, when the unit is plugged in it emits a hum. It’s not deafening by any means, but extended exposure to it was a rather unpleasant experience. At times it got to the point where we opted to unplug the unit entirely just to escape its incessant humming.

Idizm’s Space Devilfish is one of the best devices to come around in quite some time. It’s functional, it’s practical and it’s pretty useful for today’s gamers. While we haven’t chosen to abandon our keyboards in favor of the Space Devilfish, it’s not exactly sitting in the corner and gathering dust either. If you can stomach the relatively high price-point ($59.99+ S&H) then you may want to do yourself a favor and check this baby out, you won’t be disappointed.
Follow the leader, it’s the time tested method to success. But something happened along the way, a company named IDIZM decided to stray off the beaten path to come up with one of the best inventions in quite some time.

Rating: 8.7 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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