Fortress Festoon is a new column we're going to present to you every now and then. Unless you live a minimalist life as a geek (which I applaud you if you've somehow managed that), most everyone needs home furnishings and other cool objects to put in their home. We got together with Think Geek to bring you several items for one specific area of the home.
This month we're reviewing a collection of lights. But not just any lights: gaming lights! These are created specifically to illuminate your home and show off your gamer nature. But how well do these work, is the nostalgia there, and are they worth the money? Let's explore our options and see if Think Geek can offer you something cool and practical.
Paladone / $49.99
Nothing says puzzle games quite like Tetris, and now you can get this customizable LED light for the home to show off your love for the game. This lamp has actually been around for a while, but a lot of people who know about it don't really understand how it works. All of the pieces are individual lights that can be assembled in whichever form you wish. The I-block is the power source, so wherever you position it determines how you will shape the lamp. Each piece has a thin metal strip along the edges, which sends the lowest electrical current possible out so that when two of them touch, one sends power to the other. The rest of the pieces can be moved anywhere, but they must be touching to light up.
The lamp uses a standard plug, gives off little to no heat, and gives off a decent amount of light. The biggest issue with it is that if someone bumps a table, it could knock all the pieces loose. It is by far the most decorative of the group, which makes it great for display. Teens might get a kick out of it, and adults have something cool to put in the office or on a side table for fun.
Super Mario Mini Question Block Light
Paladone / $34.99
An oddity of the group, but a fun oddity. The Mini Question Block is designed to look just like the blocks you'd hit for coins in Super Mario Bros. The top part is the light with a smaller base that acts as the on/off switch and battery storage. When you push down on the light, it makes a coin sound (not old-school, more modern), and lights up. Push down again for it to turn off.
The light itself gives off a low-to-moderate amount of light. This is the kind of light you throw up on a bookshelf of on a side table to find your way, but it is not a strong light and doesn't really illuminate the room like you might expect. It isn't a bad light by any means, but don't expect to use it as a lamp.
It's also kinda weird to push down on a block, especially when you hit them from below in the game. But I've seen versions where you hit from below and they just don't work like you hope they would. It's a must for Mario Bros. fans, making a good evening light in a game room or home theater. (Side note: The site says powered by mini-USB or batteries, that is not the case; there is no USB hookup, batteries only.)
Minecraft Light-Up Redstone Ore
Think Geek / $19.99
Probably the weakest of the bunch, but could still be used in a practical sense, is the Redstone Ore. This is simply a solid plastic cube designed to look like you just dug a Minecraft redstone block out of the earth. Running off of two batteries, all you have to do is tap it with your finger to light it up. One tap is dim, two taps is moderate, three taps is bright, and tap four times to cycle through and turn it off.
The cube has two downsides: First, it isn't that bright, and second, it turns off after five minutes. I understand why the second feature is there, but truly, this light can't be appreciated unless it's at least relatively dark. That being said, I did find a practical use that many might not think of doing. This makes for a perfect bathroom light. Put it on your sink or counter or on the back of the toilet, so if you need to use it in the middle of the night, all you have to do is tap it on and you get a nice red glow to find your way. And then it turns itself back off after you finish up and stumble back to bed.
LED Potion Desk Lamp
Think Geek / $34.99
This one is the hidden gem of the bunch. The Potion Desk Lamp uses a single LED light running through a USB/outlet adapter, making it the lowest energy user of the bunch. It was easy to throw it into one of the many USB ports on my tower that I don't use, and it doesn't take up any major battery power or cause any kind of heat. If anything, this is the coldest lamp of the bunch.
The "liquid" inside is just a solid opaque base that sits there and helps illuminate the light in the base, while the chain and medallion serve as simple decoration. Tap the cork on the top to switch between red, green, yellow, and blue colors to stay solid — or you can tap it one more time to have it color cycle through the rainbow properly.
It gives off a moderate amount of light — not quite bright enough to be a proper lamp, but it can easily light up a small area and add an air of mysticality to any room. Plus, it's a potion bottle; you can get it to represent D&D, or Castlevania, or Zelda, or any other game with potion bottles. The only people who will raise a fuss are the "game accuracy" sticklers, and you should kick them out the minute they get their Comic Book Guy voice on.
Minecraft Color Changing Potion Bottle
Think Geek / $19.99
Speaking of potions: we have one shaped like the Minecraft potion bottle! It looks exactly like the one you would use in the game, and you can cycle it through several primary colors. It runs off two batteries with an on/off switch, and as it works on sensitivity, you can either shake it or tap it to make the color change.
Much like the cube, this one has a five-minute timer and will shut off after being left alone — which is kind of a tragedy, since this is the brightest light in the bunch and could actually be used as a lamp when set to one of the lighter colors. I would have preferred this design to stay on longer, but since it doesn't, I would recommend it more for kids who want something cool to display or act as a quick nightlight. It isn't a bad light, but it could be so much better.
Pac-Man Ghost Light
Paladone / $24.99
Finally, the Pac-Man Ghost Light. The light itself runs off a USB cord and uses up very little power. The normal setting for the lamp is to cycle through 16 different colors, which includes your traditional ghost colors from the game, the rest of the rainbow, and a few cross-shades like red-orange and green-yellow.
The light itself also gives off little to no heat; you could basically leave this thing running for hours and not have any issues. It also comes with an interesting feature for music. Switch over to the "Party" option and it will change colors based on the music playing in the background. This setting does take a little work to get right — there's a speaker in the back with a volume control setting to pick up how loud the music is. You'll need to do a little adjusting to get it right for whatever you're playing, but when it works, it's amazing.
And there you have it: our favorite items from Think Geek's collection of the most wonderfully geeky lighting. Which ones are on your wish list?