TestDrive: Mega Stomp Panic Review

Just in time for Halloween, Think Geek has debuted the Mega Stomp Panic, a unique sonic proposition, which they describe as an Audio Reality Costume. Now putting aside the ludicrous product name, the concept of an audio reality costume is certainly intriguing.


Think Geek Mega Stomp Panic
Think Geek did a solid job on the industrial design, but the build quality was subpar

We’ve all been to haunted houses, or even to a neighbor who really pulls out all the stops to deck out their home with a well-executed Halloween theme, and they usually have some spooky music or sound effects to complement the visual aesthetics. However, this is the first time we’ve seen a portable product that takes this concept “on the road.” We gave three reviewers the Mega Stomp Panic to play with this week to get their impressions of how well Think Geek executed this concept. Their comments are below in quotes.

The MSP has 9 different sonic environments
Think Geek delivers eight quality sound sets, but went "off their meds" when coming up with the "bewildering" Rainstorm

Features:
» Audio Reality Costume — Mega Stomp senses your leg movements when you step or stomp, then plays perfectly timed sound effects to create the audio illusion.
» Each sound environment features different sound effects for stepping vs stomping.
» Supporting background audio sets the mood for each environment.
» Sound banks included:
— Hydraulic Robot (robot walking, crushing things)
— Rainstorm (walking in puddles, splashing in puddles)
— Zombie Attack (squishy walk, dragging a dead limb, zombie attack RAWR!)
— Gigantic Monster (city-squishing monster walk, crushing buildings)
— Gunslinger (walking with boots & spurs, shotgun pump & fire)
— Medieval Knight (walking in plate armor, swords clanging)
— Pegleg Pirate (every other foot is your peg leg!, pistol firing, swords clanging)
— 8-Bit Gaming Hero (video game walk, coin collecting, pew pew!)
— Steampunk Giant Robot (hydraulic robot walking, steam, crushing things)
» Retro Style LED Sound Bank Indicator
» Main box and mini box glow with embedded LEDs
» Battery Powered: 4 AAA (not included)

Cool Idea – Terrible Name

The Mega Stomp Panic, which we will simply call MSP from now on since that name is beyond irritating, is comprised of two elements, a main device, about the size of a cigarette pack, and a smaller unit with a built-in solid state accelerometer. The larger unit clips on to your belt or pocket and contains the battery compartment, speaker and DSP circuitry. Two knobs sit on top, one controlling the volume and the other, selects one of nine sonic environments: Hydraulic Robot, Zombie Attack, Gigantic Monster, Gunslinger, Medieval Knight, Pegleg Pirate, 8-Bit Gaming Hero (think Super Mario), Steampunk Giant Robot and the completely “out of place” and “useless” Rainstorm. The smaller component employs an accelerometer to sync your leg movements, either hard or normal, to specific sounds in the theme. For example, selecting the Gigantic Monster (think Godzilla), provides normal big, crunching sounds when walking normally, or smashing mayhem when you stomp. A very cool idea that for the most part works as advertised.

Blinded By Science

Think Geek did a solid job with the industrial design of the units, which tether together with a minijack connection, but all reviewers lambasted the “overly bright LEDs” that they all felt “betrayed the idea of creating an audio illusion.” You could certainly use the MSP without a costume to pretend to stomp around your house destroying cities or annoying your sisters, but the ideal application would be to compliment your Halloween costume with an aural component. Many of the sound environments are seemingly designed for that application, such as the two robots, gunslinger and pirate, but to then to have ultra bright, blue LED lights beaming from your belt “rat’s out the audio reality” and “reveals your secret to the world.” A method to turn off or dim the LEDs would probably be a good solution.

MSP Stomp Action
The MSP delivers two different sound based on whether you walk or stomp. Acid washed jeans, not included.

Aside from the Rainstorm motif, all the sonic environments are well executed and truly bring you into the fantasy world they depict. The peg-legged pirate includes sounds of seagulls, creaking wood, a parrot and other “aural biscuits” to make you feel like you’re only inches away from Davy Jones’ Locker. The Knight sounds great too with sounds of armor, horses and swords clanging, but it’s clear that Think Geek quickly ran out of ideas. The two robot sound banks, Hydraulic and Steampunk are very similar and the aforementioned Rainstorm is clearly filler. What would have really made the MSP a standout is the ability to upload your own sounds and samples into the device via USB. This would have kept the product continually fresh, and it may have even fostered the discovery of user applications that Think Geek never would have anticipated, creating new markets.

Although the accelerometer technology did a “fair job of identifying a strut from a stomp,” it was not 100%, or even 80% reliable, especially if you are wearing soft-soled shoes, such as sneakers. Shoes with a heel and hard rubber or leather bottoms were “more accelerometer-friendly and assisted the device greatly.” A methodology to adjust the accelerometer’s sensitivity would greatly improve the results.

Conclusion

Now here’s the kicker: The MSP costs $40 bills plus about $8-10 bucks in shipping. That’s $50 bucks! Is it worth it? The reviewers were split. One was 50-50, another was a definite yes for his polished, pirate costume and the third was an outright no. Bottom line: If you are looking for a product that will take your Robot, SuperMario, Cowboy, Pirate, or Zombie costume to the next level and believe $50 is a small price to pay to impress, then the MSP is a no-brainer. If you are not rocking one of those costumes, and care about your hard-earned dollars, then you may want to wait for the price to drop ($19.95 is probably the magic price point) or enhancements to be made for version 2.

The Future

If Think Geek decides to create a MSP 2.0 we’d like to see a way to modulate the accelerometer’s sensitivity and a LED Dimmer. If they really want to open up the product, we’d love to have the ability to input our own samples and the inclusion of an external audio output.

                                                                                                                             » FutureMusic Rating: 75%


Cheers:

+ Awesome Concept

+ Loud and Clear Speaker

+ Good Size

+ Industrial Design

+ Quality Of Sonic Environments

Jeers:

- Expensive

- Build Quality

- LED Lights

- Only 9 Environments

- Accelerometer Sensitivity

Off The Record:

“Good cheeky fun! I’m going to tape over the LED lights, hide it under my dress and walk around in public. That should be interesting…”

  —Amanda Johnson   

“I don’t know if Think Geek believes that people are going to use the MSP to accompany their rendition of Singing In The Rain, but the inclusion of that sound set is downright bewildering.”

  —Dan Brotman   

“The inability to input your own samples is a big miss, as well as the exclusion of an external audio output. They would have opened up their potential market way beyond Halloween…”

  —Greg Geller



The Think Geek Mega Stomp Panic is available now for about $50 shipped via Think Geek.

Think Geek