One of the most hyped features of the Xbox 360 was its customizability. Whereas the original Xbox was a big black box with a ho-hum interface, the 360 can be fitted with new faceplates and custom themes. While the theme department is well spoken for--there's plenty to download and you can upload photos via USB-enabled digital cameras and storage devices--the faceplate selection has been pretty paltry and decidedly lackluster, leaving gamers few options to give their consoles a unique look that really expresses their individuality.
With its GameFace 360, a custom faceplate kit available for $20, Nyko hopes to foster some creativity--and make a few bucks in the process. The Nyko GameFace 360 consists of two parts: a silver back plate and a clear front plate. In between the two, you place one of six preprinted paper templates or a custom design printed on one of 15 included blank sheets. The paper templates have punch-out holes for the Xbox 360's disc tray, memory card and USB slots, sync and power buttons, and infrared receiver. The silver back plate looks pretty sleek in its own right, and you may be tempted to leave it on your 360 console as is. However, while the silver faceplate seems mighty nice, it's not the best choice for a background color, as some of your personal designs may clash with the dark silver styling that pokes through on the memory card and USB slots--a white or clear design may have been a better choice.
As for the included preprinted templates, they aren't that impressive--they're either awful-looking or derivative of already-available faceplates. That said, they afford you a good way to practice attaching the paper template to the clear front faceplate so that you don't wreck your own designs when mounting them.
To print a design for use with the GameFace, you must download the GameFace software from Nyko's Web site. The software, which is compatible with Windows PCs and Macs, is simple and unobtrusive. You simply extract the program from a ZIP file and start it up. When you launch the software, you're presented with a blank document in the shape of a faceplate, with a small set of editing options. Mainly, the GameFace software lets you add layers, which essentially allows you to import JPEG, GIF, bitmap, or TIF files. From there, you can rotate the layer, change its scale, and increase or decrease its brightness and contrast. You can also add a few effects to the layer, such as inverting the color, blurring the image, or applying grayscale or sepia tones. While it may be a rudimentary image-editing package, it's more than fine for performing basic touch-ups to pictures. If you have Photoshop, Nyko has a downloadable template available to make use of that software's more robust editing suite. The template is a PSD file that, while created for Photoshop, will also work in other digital imaging programs such as Corel Paint Shop Pro X. We printed a few test designs without incident, and the paper template pages come labeled with instructions and tips.
The only snags we encountered were when we put together a faceplate and went to attach it to the system. When removing the paper template from the printed page, you have to take extreme care not to tear it. Then, when you place the paper template on the clear front faceplate, it's pretty difficult to match up all of the cutouts without the paper bunching up in some areas. And finally, when it's time to remove the dual faceplate/sheet combo, it's difficult to get all three off at once, as you'll sometimes end up removing the front one. In short, the whole process is a bit nerve-racking, especially when you consider you're limited to 15 blank paper templates. Fortunately, Nyko says it will soon sell the paper templates separately.
In the final analysis, the small problems with the Nyko GameFace 360 are easily overlooked when you consider that, for the price of a single Microsoft faceplate, you get as many as 15 of your own designs. The fact is, it's the only product you'll need to customize your 360.