Review By James Robbins
The stick comes nicely packaged and includes three XBLA games. It’s a very tempting purchase at the store for a mere $50. *grin* (Hey, I spent over $2500 on my MAME arcade cab if that gives you some perspective). The games included are AstroPop, Time Pilot, and Frogger. The stick includes every button and function included on the original controller, plus a “Spinner” and some turbo functions. I have included a few pictures so you can see the different angles of the stick. As you can see, there is a cable on this stick, and it has a USB port on the end, and I plugged it into my PC, as well. It is recognized as an “Arcade Gamestick” and works like any other PC controller if you care to use it as such. There are no suction cup feet on the unit to stick it down, so it is intended to be held in the hand like a modern controller, and not used like a traditional arcade stick.
I think this is a new title for XBLA that takes the principals of classic gaming and adds some newer graphics and it has a pretty good feel to it. You move your paddle around the bottom of the screen and collect blocks from the top and push them back up to make groups of four. When you get a group of four, the blocks disappear and can cause a cascading block removal affect if done properly. There are lots of special blocks that remove rows or columns, etc. This title was a good choice to include with the stick as it makes good use of the “Spinner”. It was more difficult to play with the D-Pad or the analog thumb stick on the usual 360 controller. Over all, I’d say the title is pretty fun, and I’ll be going back to it. I think this game might work better with a more accurate control unit like a mouse or real arcade spinner or paddle. You can get a PC version (http://www.popcap.com/launchpage.php?theGame=astropop) as well as download the trial from XBLA.
Now, we come to the shoulder buttons… Once again, there is no need to put a shoulder button on this thing. You can’t even reach the left shoulder buttons if you are using the joystick or D-Pad as your finger won’t reach. Ah, the D-pad, and you thought the original 360 controller had a bad D-pad. This one kind-of works, but not well. It is nice that it is slightly larger than the original 360 version, but that’s where the good stops, and the bad kicks in. If you only use it as a touch pad for up-down-left-right, then it functions properly. However, if you try to hit diagonals, or use it in other 4-way games where you are sliding your thumb around, then you find that the control sticks. For example, you are playing Ms. Pac-Man, and you are going left, then swoop your thumb down for the next corner, the D-Pad doesn’t release the diagonal direction. I verified this on the PC control panel, as well. If you swoop from one direction to another, it holds the diagonal even though you are clearly pushing up-down-left-right at the end of the swoop. I think it is a really, really bad pad. Heck, I did try two of these things, and both did the same thing. The second unit seemed a little better, but it still made some games unplayable.
Did I mention this thing has a cable on it? I am really used to using the wireless controller, and the cable is very annoying. I don’t think Mad Catz had an option to go wireless however, as MS isn’t allowing third parties full access to some design features yet. Lastly, the bottom of the controller is terrible! My hands were cramping up a lot while using it because of how non-ergonomic the unit is. The plastic is also very slick so you can’t get a good hold on it while using it. Yeah, I know, I had blisters back in the day with my 2600 joystick, but at least you could hold it without it slipping out of your hands. And last, and most certainly least, are the turbo functions. They weren’t intuitive to use at all, and I actually had to refer to the manual to use them. In any case, after reading the directions, I didn’t bother to try. I guess I just like the honest way of gaming. My fingers are fast enough for now. *grin*
When summer comes, I am going to tear this thing apart and build a proper arcade controller out of it. I think I may be able to salvage the “spinner” and make it a paddle on a nice large arcade box with real arcade sticks and buttons, etc…
Yeah, I may have been a little harsh. At least when you read the “good” reviews on some other non-arcade web site, you won’t be fooled into wasting your money without knowing what you are getting into. This isn’t an arcade stick. This isn’t an Atari stick. It isn’t a real spinner. It isn’t a good D-Pad. It IS just a few good games with a crappy plastic stick good for making a REAL joystick someday.