Happ Controls Perfect 360 Optical Joystick
Review by Kevin Steele
The Happ Controls Perfect 360 Optical Joystick
Where to begin? I have to admit I'm having trouble thinking of an objective way to say that this is my favorite joystick, and by a wide margin. This will obviously slant my review to some degree, but if you've come here looking for opinion, I've got plenty of that to share.
The Happ Controls Perfect 360 Optical Joystick (or P360 for short) has got to be one of the finest joysticks I've ever used, arcade or otherwise. A unique optical design means no microswitches, which in turn means smooth, silent gameplay.
Instead of the usual Microswitch assembly on the bottom of the joystick, the P360 utilizes a unique optical sensor ring, with optics replacing mechanical switches. The optics sense when light generated by the sensor assemblies is being blocked, telling the joystick what direction the joystick shaft is being pushed. It's a precise and extremely smooth method of relaying joystick movement back to the computer.
The installation of the P360 starts off like many other joysticks, but includes some unique twists. Like most other joysticks, you need to disassemble the shaft, mount the bottom assembly, and then reinstall the shaft from the top of the control panel.
One twist is the fact that the extra-strong spring in this joystick makes getting the E-clip back in place a royal pain. My finger still hurt from trying to push in the actuator, hold the shaft in place, and squeeze the E-clip back into its groove.
Another twist is the fact that this joystick needs power. 5 volts, to be precise. If you're using an IPAC, there is a 5V tap available on the board for you to connect to. If you're using another encoder, you'll need to adapt a USB 5V feed or run a cable to your power supply. This power feed problem makes installing the P360 more difficult than most joysticks, but the results are worth it.
Like many of the Happ joysticks, this joystick can be switched from 4-way to 8-way by disassembling the shaft and flipping a small actuator on the bottom of the panel (fat end towards the E-clip for 4-way, skinny end for 8-way).
Why you'd ever want to use this joystick as a dedicated 4-way is beyond me, though, as it was built for diagonals — while it has a typical 15° range of diagonal engagement, it was so much easier to accurately hit diagonals with this joystick I began to wonder what was wrong with the other joysticks.
Smooth. Again I'll say: smooth. (That's all I should have to say, but you know I'm going to expand on that thought!) Without any restrictor plates or microswitches, the P360 has the smoothest feel of any joystick I've ever used. Playing a game like Time Pilot, where you spin the joystick around, is a joy with this joystick (it's hard to avoid that pun ;-)
The P360 has a stronger spring than most of the other joysticks I've tested, but you wouldn't know it from the gameplay. The tension level felt perfect, and I never felt the joystick was too loose or stiff.
Sound and Size
The sound of silence. Aside from almost inaudible minor spring creaks, this joystick makes no sound at all. It sounds as silky smooth as it plays.
Size-wise, the P360's 2.5" handle 2.5" and 1.25" diameter is identical to the Competition joystick. They're even styled similarly.
A firmer spring and a complete lack of friction make an interesting combination that really gave me a feeling of absolute and total control. The joystick just responded the way I expected it to — I never had an accidental diagonal or any moment where I felt it went a direction I didn't want it to go.
I hate so sound so gushy, but I really noticed a distinct improvement in my game with these joysticks, and it's a great piece of equipment when it does exactly what you want it to do and never gives you a moment's grief.
Diagonals are one of the triumphs of this design — in a game such as Robotron, quick and accurate diagonals are critical. This joystick makes it a cinch to hit perfect diagonal shots, over and over and over. Even better is the fact that I almost never hit a diagonal with these joysticks unless I want to!
The following chart lists the joystick test results, current as of this review. The chart will continue to fill in with data as the "Joystick Roundup" continues.
Fast, silent, and amazingly smooth and accurate, the Happs Perfect 360 is my joystick of choice. In the oft parodied words of movie reviewers, "if you only buy one joystick this summer, make it a P360."
The only thing that blemishes the P360 is a bit of installation difficulty and the pricetag, at $45.95 each (although they're on sale right now for $24.99 until 7/31/04!). Even though these are the most expensive joysticks in the roundup, they are worth every cent.
One of the best things about the P360? It's even better with a SlikStik stainless steel handle. I had P360's with stainless steel balltops installed on my SlikStik control panel, and I am in love with these joysticks. The shape and feel of the SlikStik handles just makes the gameplay that much more enjoyable.
I can't recommend these joysticks highly enough. Honestly!
Special thanks to SlikStik for loaning me the Happ Perfect 360 used in this review!