Tag Archives: Gaming Peripherals

U Youse Gaming Headset Review

UYouseTitle

So you’ve managed to pony up $700 for that new killer rig, or for that Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo console trifecta. Between that, and a few games to go along with the hardware, you suddenly realize something: You’re going to need a headset for those multiplayer games, or for streaming games on your Twitch or YouTube channel. But with the huge investment you’ve made, there isn’t enough left over to splurge on that awesome Sennheiser pair you’ve been eyeing. Hell, you don’t even have $40 for one of those respectable Turtle Beach sets you saw when you last visited a GameStop. What can you possibly do now?

PROS: It’s dirt cheap! It sounds good!

CONS: The build is also cheap. No Microphone volume dial.

MULTI-PLATFORM: The included Y cable means you can use it on computers too.

Well you can decide to dig through the garage for an old pair of tinny monaural headphones, and one of those old crusty wire microphones. But that’s probably not what you had in mind. There are also a slew of crappy, dollar store monaural headsets out there too. Heck, even some respectable ones exist, but they’ll often cost you $20-$30 at most big box stores. Not much less than a decent stereo headset.

But enter discount store Five Below. Everything the chain sells is five bucks or less, including headphones. And while you’d be right to be skeptical about the performance of any headset that a store charges so little for, The U Youse has some good things going for it. I know I’m going to sound crazy, but this is a viable option for anybody on an absolute shoestring budget.

For starters, it has some comfortable padded cups around the speakers. It’s adjustable. For such a budget device, it’s honestly on par with some of the stuff you’d pay four times as much for in a big box retailer. The speakers are actually pretty respectable. I’ve been able to hear game sound effects, and music clearly, and cleanly. When gaming, I’ve been able to hear other players fine through Discord, Steam Chat, and the in-game chat functions in many, many games. The microphone on it is halfway decent too. Other people can hear me fine, and I’ve even been able to stream with it.

UYouseBox

Of course, the old saying goes “You get what you pay for”, and that still holds true with this peripheral. You can’t come into this expecting miracles. The included Y cable is made very cheaply, and so you’ll have to be careful when attaching it to the headset. Depending on your computer, you may have to fidget with the jacks to get it to connect just right. Once you do, everything will be fine. But it is something to be mindful of.

Other things to be aware of is the fact that there is no volume dial for the microphone on the cord, nor is there a mute button. You’ll have to adjust the microphone volume through your computer or console’s sound settings. And while the headphones actually sound pretty good considering the low-cost, they don’t have a lot of bass. Or much in the way of treble. Again, don’t expect these things to hang with those Beats, or  Bose headphones you saw the last time you were in Best Buy. The plastic around the cups is also brittle. So be gentle when putting these on or taking them off.

But until you can save up some money for one of those higher tier solutions this can get you through. It’s also a terrific option for parents who can’t afford to drop a lot of money on a headset for their kids. Especially if they’re children susceptible to breaking headphones regularly. You can buy a few of them, and open one when someone trips over the cord or steps on one when it has been carelessly left on the floor. For those of us whom treat their electronics well, this is also a nice backup option. When your “Good” headset wears out, this is something you can use until you can afford to get a replacement set of equal performance.

While it might not be a terrific headset, it’s a cut above the cheap stuff you usually see in discount dollar stores. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well it’s performed for me over the past month, and I can recommend it. Again, it isn’t going to set your world on fire, but if you find yourself in need of a new headset at a time where you have to be especially frugal the U Youse is a viable option. You can easily do worse. If you have a Five Below store in your area, you may want to pick one up.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Advertisements

Bella 73 Quart Container Review

BTBellaTitle

No, your eyes do not deceive you. I’m going to talk about a plastic tub. But this is one of the best plastic tubs you can find. A plastic tub that can, and should be used for storing something it was probably never intended to store: Video game collections. Yes really. Read on, and see if it isn’t something you’ll want to look into.

PROS: Stores, many, many games whether on cartridge or optical media.

CONS: Plastic can be cracked if you don’t take proper care of it.

PERFECT: Dimensions for those of us low on space.

Let’s face it. Many of us who collect old games can build quite the collection. What starts out as the 15 NES Game Paks from your childhood, can easily balloon to 200-300 over the course of a few years. There are tag sales, flea markets, pawn shops, retro video game stores, thrift stores, internet dealers, and even conventions to attend. Before long, you have a huge stack of video games on the floor waiting to be catalogued, and placed somewhere ideal.

But for those of us with a small room to devote to our collection, or for those of us who live in a small dorm or apartment we have to be a bit more selective about what we pick up. More importantly, we have to get a bit creative about just how to store our games. Enter the Bella container.  This plastic tub was probably never intended for gaming, but it’s something you’ll probably want to pick up for yourself. Especially if you’re in a situation where space is an issue.

BTBellaAtari

The container is the perfect width, depth, and height for most cartridges, and it even works nicely for DVD cases, and jewel cases. It can also easily slide underneath a bed thanks to the wheels embedded in each corner. Or you can stack a few of them if you have a storage closet available to place them in. Over the last several months I’ve found they’ve been great for storing my NES, Super NES, Sega Genesis, and loose 2600 games.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had to spend a big chunk of my time cleaning, and downsizing where possible. These have made that process a lot easier. My aforementioned libraries all exceed 100 games, and being able to fit them conveniently, and neatly is an impressive feat. These may also be something worth looking into if you’re a used games vendor who often sells product at conventions. The blend of low footprint, and large capacity might work wonders for your table.

BTBellaAtari2

The only real issue with this tub is that they’re made of the same acrylic plastics most other storage containers are. This makes them lightweight, but it also means they can’t be slammed around. You’re not going to want to drop the thing carelessly when you’re reorganizing your room, as there’s a good chance you’ll crack the plastic. If you’re fairly gentle with your stuff you should be fine. But it is something to be aware of.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with them though. They can be found fairly affordably at Bed Bath & Beyond, although other retailers, and internet sites likely sell them as well. If you’ve got quite the Nintendo 64 collection, or you’ve come into a massive lot of Colecovision games. But now you have no idea how you’re going to store them, these plastic container bins may be the solution for you.

Final Score: 9 out of 10.

Power A Joy-Con Power Grip Review

BTPOWERATITLE

With any new console, there are always a host of third-party companies that bring out accessories. Even going back to the earliest popular home consoles of the 70’s, and 80’s you could guarantee there were joysticks, and game pads that claimed to do the job better than Atari, Commodore, Coleco, Sega, and Nintendo could. Even today, there are still a large variety of aftermarket controllers for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.

PROS: Rubberized contours. Fancy artwork.

CONS: May work a little too well.

OCTO: May look like something you’ll want to use for that upcoming expansion pack.

With a Splatfest in Splatoon 2 just having ended as I write this, I can say this third-party grip has a lot going for it. First of all, it has a really slick piece of Splatoon 2 art on the front of it. Which is really nice for those of you with the Pink, and Green joycons. Power A doesn’t only make this with art from Nintendo’s squid themed shooter though. You can find this with art based on The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, Super Mario Bros., and Super Mario Odyssey.

The grip has a nice amount of heft to it too. The texture on the grips is nice, keeping it from just sliding out of your hands. They have a comfortable indent where your middle fingers can rest easy. So the whole thing feels great in your hands. If you’ve used the grip that came with your Switch for a long period of time, the slight difference may feel weird at first, but over time it may be something you actually prefer.

BTPOWERABOX

The main plate in the center is nice. It feels a bit more solid than the one in the stock grip, and even sports the same player-number lights that the first-party one does. There’s just one problem, and it’s something you’ll need to pay close attention to. The brackets that hold the joy-cons in place work a little bit too well. If you’ve only got one set of them, and you frequently take them in, and out of the grip be careful. Because Power A’s version of this device holds the joy-cons in place very snug. So snug, that taking them out can be a bit trickier than taking them out of Nintendo’s grip. In either case you’ll need to hold the release button on each joy-con before, and during, the process of sliding them out. Nintendo’s solution allows these to very easily slide back out. Power A’s does not. It’s almost as if you have to break theirs in like a pair of shoes. If you only ever take your joy-cons out to charge on the Switch when you’re out of juice, this won’t come up as often. If you’re the type to go between TV, and portable modes multiple times per day, you really need to be aware of this.

BTPOWERAFITANDFINISH

No doubt the joy-cons will probably survive, it’s rare most of us break a Nintendo controller. Nintendo’s own controllers, and peripherals are usually of a high quality. However, if you get frustrated, and yank too hard, the rails on the grip could bend, or snap, rendering the whole thing useless. You may find you’ll have to gently wiggle your joy-cons until they’re willing to move. It’s a shame that my complaint has to be that they do their job too well, because it’s a lot better than what many might expect. Slipshod efforts from controller manufacturers have given many decent to great peripherals a bad reputation. Whether you started gaming with the 2600, NES, Genesis, or something else entirely, chances are you had at least one cheap controller. That one joystick or game pad that was shoddy, but your folks bought it because it was only ten dollars. That still holds true today. There are many aftermarket controllers that are made with the cheapest parts possible. This grip is not one of them. I put it through many hours of Splatoon 2 over the last several nights, and it worked great. It’s comfortable, light, yet sturdy, and you’ll never have to worry about your joy-cons falling out of it.

BTPOWERAGREEN

Just keep in mind you’ll need to be gentle, and patient when it’s time to take the Switch on the road. Power A’s grip is made fairly well, but it isn’t built like a tank either. It isn’t going to win any fights with the wall. But then not many controllers will. If you’re careful with your stuff this thing will be a fine peripheral, and you can find one based on one of your most-liked Switch games. If you’re hard on your controllers, you may want to invest in something heavy-duty like a Pro Controller, or even an arcade stick. But don’t throw any of these at your wall. They probably won’t win, and you’re not going to get the security deposit back for the holes in the drywall. Impatience, and frustration aside, I recommend this for those who need a replacement grip, and want something a little bit more personal.

FINAL SCORE: 8 out of 10

Horipad Wired Controller Review

BTHORITITLE

The Nintendo Switch is a great console, that plays a lot of great games. The controllers it comes with, while innovative, aren’t always the best option in every scenario. On the go, they’re great. They’re small, compact, and you can divide them to make two controllers. But at home, those two joycons are likely going in the comfort grip. So when a friend comes over, or your significant other, spouse, siblings or roommate want to play with you, what to do?

PROS: Quality build. Versatile. Inexpensive.

CONS: Doesn’t have the gyroscopic functions.

WEIRD: The D-pad design.

There are a surprisingly high number of controller options emerging for Nintendo’s gaming tablet. Obviously Nintendo’s own solutions are pretty great. You can roll with another set of joycons, which will double as two controllers, and that gets you set for four player games. But you have that small size issue which in a home setting, and on certain games may feel cumbersome for larger hands. You can also go for Nintendo’s Pro Controller. It’s nice, does everything the joycons can, and it’s got a hefty, yet comfortable design. But it also costs more than a lot of games do the day they come out.

For a lot of us, buying a Pro Controller for ourselves, or to have on hand for a second player, may be cost prohibitive. There are a wealth of third-party solutions coming out now to address this. But many of them have lackluster build quality, using cheap plastics or sub par wiring. Enter the Horipad. Hori isn’t generally known for what most might call general purpose controllers. They’re known for expensive, professional grade arcade fighting sticks. Go to any local Street Fighter or Tekken tournament, and you’ll find a lot of arcade joysticks made by Hori.

BTHORIPackage

Anyway, the Horipad is a pretty good solution for anyone looking for a controller for a second player, or to leave connected so they don’t have to take the joycons off at home. It has a solid build quality. It doesn’t have the heft of Nintendo’s own controller, however it doesn’t feel brittle, and thin either. It feels about as solid as Microsoft’s own Xbox 360 controllers did.  The thumb sticks feel really comfortable, and all of the buttons, and triggers are very responsive.

Beyond that, the controller also has the +, and – buttons to pull up menus. It has the home button, and even included the screen capture button. Hori even put a turbo button into the controller, and it works wonderfully. Simply hold a button down, press turbo, and it will just rapid fire along when you hold it from that point on. Let go of everything, press the turbo button again, and everything goes back to normal.

BTHORIContents

Frankly, this would be an utterly flawless solution if not for a couple of things. The worst is the lack of gyroscopic functions. This means that for a handful of games, you really won’t be able to use it properly. Super Mario Galaxy, for instance, requires gestures for some of the moves. Using the joycons, or pro controller won’t be a problem, as you can swing or shake them when needed. You can’t do them with the Horipad. The pad does work in Splatoon 2, but you won’t be able to use mouse-look like you can with the joycons or pro controller. There aren’t gobs, and gobs of games that require the gyroscopic tech. But if you buy one, do know you’ll have to use the joycons. I do applaud Hori for mentioning this on the back of the box though. It’s nice to know this going in.

BTHORIContoured

The other thing some won’t like is the D-pad. Rather than get rid of the C-buttons, and put a traditional D-pad in their place, they kept the C-buttons. The solution they came up with was to put a peg hole in between the buttons, and make a D-pad that plugs into it. It does work fairly well. In most games that benefit from a D-pad this works fine. Press “Up”, and get the desired result. However it ends up feeling like the D-pad on the original Xbox 360 controller.  So it isn’t quite as good as a dedicated D-pad but it’s still an improvement over the C-buttons on the  left joycon.

 

BTHORIDpad

But there is one really, cool thing about this controller, and that’s its versatility. You can also use this on any Windows 10 computer. Plug it in, and it is seen no problem. However the buttons are still mapped as if you were playing on the Switch. So in games where you’re used to using Microsoft’s layout, you’ll have to go into the menu, and re-bind keys. The overwhelming majority of PC games let you do this. But the bottom line is that, you can repurpose this as a game pad for your PC. Which means although you’re getting a second controller for your Switch, you don’t need to buy an Xbox or Steam controller for your computer. Assuming you haven’t already.

 

BTHORIDpad2

All in all, this is a great all around controller for the overwhelming majority of games on the Switch. Especially if you want something a cut above most other third-party controllers in terms of quality while still coming in at a budget price. Those who require a traditional D-pad might want to look at other solutions. But again, this is still a cut above the build of a lot of third-party solutions. The fact that it can also be used as a PC game pad is also a really great feature. It’s also a really comfortable fit for about anybody’s hands. About the only major drawback is the exclusion of the gyroscopic features seen in Nintendo’s own Pro Controller. Be that as it may, you can get two of these pads for the cost of Nintendo’s wireless one. For someone who needs a solid controller at an affordable price, the Horipad is a contender.

Final Score: 8 out of 10.

The Edge Joystick Review

BTTheEdgeTitle

With the recent news that the NES Classic Edition is going back into production next year,  you might be looking forward to the re-release. Especially if you missed out the first time around. Of course, with any new console (yes even the all-in-ones) come a host of third-party accessories, and peripherals. The Edge is one of them.

PROS: Arcade grade buttons. Also compatible with the Wii U, and Wii!

CONS: Mediocre base.

ADVANTAGE: The controller pays homage to Nintendo’s NES Arcade Stick.

The Edge is modeled after Nintendo’s own NES Advantage. A legendary controller that any NES collector should own. It was designed with arcade games, and ports in mind. Donkey Kong, Galaga, Pac-Man, Mario Bros, and Double Dragon were just some of the classics that were even more enjoyable with a proper arcade stick.

Well, several of these games’ ROMs came on the NES Classic Edition. With no official NES Classic Edition version of the NES Advantage (Nintendo only made the Control Pads) EMiO enters the fray. EMiO is known mostly for common accessories like cases, and wall chargers for portable devices. They’re also the company behind the Mega Man headphones.

BTTheEdgeBox

With the NES Classic Edition launch, the company capitalized on the lack of an arcade stick with their own Advantage clone. They also made knock off Control Pads to capitalize on the shortage of first-party branded ones. I can’t comment on these as I don’t have them to test out. But I did happen upon The Edge, and this is what I found.

The Edge Joystick gets a number of things right, and has a few nice features under the hood. It’s stylish, and really does capture the look of an actual NES Advantage. It has turbo switches, and dials like the original. It also has a slow motion button, and adds an A+B button which performs actions in games that require pressing both, A, and B simultaneously.

BTTheEdgeBox2

One really cool thing about this one is the inclusion of arcade joystick grade buttons. They’re nice, comfortable, and give you the familiar clicking you’d expect. The stick also has a nice arcade spring, and feels nice when moving it around. They also included interchangeable joystick knobs. There’s the ball style that the NES Advantage had, and then there’s a more traditional wedge style you can use instead. These easily twist on or off, so you can use whichever style you like with ease.

One other thing to keep in mind is the NES Classic Edition uses the same ports for controllers as the Wii mote controllers have for attachments. That makes the controllers for the NES Classic Edition compatible with the Wii, and Wii U. The Edge Joystick can be used with old games purchased on the Wii Shop Channel, and Nintendo E-Shop. I tested it with several games, and the results were mixed.

BTTheEdgeBox3

On the Wii U, I tried the stick with Mighty Final Fight. In this case things were pretty good. The controller was pretty responsive, and I was able to play the game fairly well. Nothing to complain about. I also fired up Wii Mode, and proceeded to go into my roster of classics. I started up Donkey Kong, which is also on the NES Classic Edition. This was the first game I had a big problem with. For whatever reason going from walking right or left to climbing up a ladder would never go seamlessly. I had to stop walking, then push up on the joystick to climb. Donkey Kong pretty much requires spot on movement, and this put a big damper on the game.

BTTheEdgeRing

I then tried a few non-NES games just to see how well it worked with some of the other emulated systems. Boulder Dash for the Commodore 64 in Wii mode worked okay. Not great. Not bad. Just okay. Holding the stick in any direction often overshot where I wanted to be by one tile. But tapping the stick allowed me to move one tile at a time well enough. It was playable, but Boulder Dash is another platform, puzzle game that requires spot on movement. In later levels where speed is as important as planning, you may just want to use the Wii Remote for this one.

BTTheEdgeConnector

I also used the stick with Cho Aniki for the TG-16 in Wii mode. This controlled just fine with the stick, and I didn’t have much to complain about. I was able to move in all directions smoothly, and firing was just as responsive. Another one that played well with The Edge was Contra Rebirth. Running, jumping, and firing in all directions were smooth during my play time with it. I closed out the tests with Ninja Combat for the Neo Geo on the Wii. If not for the fact the game requires a four button controller, this would have been the best test game. Moving, shooting, and jumping worked perfectly. Unfortunately, only having two buttons meant I couldn’t perform every function required to play properly. Still, it was a nice surprise.

One nice touch is the Nintendo Power pastiche included in the box. It’s a small booklet with some strategies, and cheat codes for the 30 games included in the NES Classic Edition. So if you’re picking this up with the console, it’s a fun little bit of bonus material for you.

BTTheEdgeContents

Aside from some iffy performance on some titles, the big problem with this controller is the inconsistency with the build. The nice, arcade buttons for the A, and B buttons are great, and the stick component is pretty good. Regrettably though, I have to point out the very light, and cheap feeling plastics for the controller body. If you come into this looking for the same hefty, build quality of the original NES Advantage you’re not going to find it.

BTTheEdgeknob

The Edge is a mixed bag. For some games you’ll like it fine enough, while on others you’ll just want to roll with the standard pad or Wii mote.  The real disappointment is the flimsy feel of the plastics aside from the rather nice buttons. There are worse controllers for the Classic, Wii, and Wii U. But this isn’t going to be the most well-rounded option either. Unless you’re dead set on using a joystick, and don’t have the hundreds to drop on a high-end arcade stick, I would stick with the standard first-party control pads. Or a Wii Classic Controller Pro for playing on the NES Classic or the original Wii. Wii U owners can also use the Wii U pro controller for games on the eshop.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

Steam Controller Review

BTSteamController

A few years ago now, Valve unveiled its plan to get PC’s in the living room. This wasn’t an entirely new idea. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) PC Builders have tried this for years with a handful of minor successes. The late, Gateway had its Destination series. Hewlett-Packard built a line of computers with cards that could output to TVs. Dell attempted it, even boutique companies have tried this before partnering with Valve.

But Valve wanted theirs to be a little bit closer to a mass market attempt, rather than an entirely niche one. It was, and is an attempt to get more console owners to try gaming on a computer. After a number of delays, their Steam machine partners have put out these Home Theatre PCs. One of the key differences is past attempts from other companies were Windows based, where Valve’s partners are using Valve’s Linux based Steam OS. The other part of Valve’s plan however doesn’t involve a Steam OS based computer. It’s centered around a versatile new controller.

PROS: Versatile. Comfortable. Compatible with most anything on Steam.

CONS: Not quite as simplified for games not on Steam.

ELABORATE: The packaging is very ritzy.

The beautiful thing about the Steam controller is that you don’t have to have a Steam machine to use it. It will work with pretty much any computer made in the last 15 years. Provided of course you are on at least Windows 7, Mac OS 10.10 or Steam OS, and have a Steam account. Outside of Steam, the pad is seen as a keyboard, and a mouse. Although it has no keys, so you can’t type with it. But you can navigate your Operating System’s GUI using the trackpad, and cursors as a mouse. Once you fire up Steam though, it gets really interesting, really quickly.

BTSteamController1

The first thing that will happen upon firing up Steam, is a prompt to go into Steam’s Big Picture Mode. Once you do it will want to link the controller to your account. You can skip the process, but doing so won’t let you get all of the functionality. Once it is linked to your account it will give you the ability to customize boot settings, and save key binds to it. The controller includes USB dongles so that you can use it wirelessly, or as a wired controller. It includes 2 AA Duracell alkaline batteries. But you can use also use rechargeable AA batteries instead.

Once you’ve done all of that, Steam will prompt you to download the latest firmware updates. Once that is finished, it takes a brief moment to install, and you’re almost set. You can then calibrate the gamepad. A handy screen comes up with a blueprint. Once you press all of the buttons, and test the trackpads you’re set.

Every game in the Steam store works with the controller on some level. The controller has preset profiles in it that will fit the bill in many cases. There’s a set up to mimic a console gamepad, keyboard, and mouse, along with a few others. Most of the time, you’ll fire up a game with it, and play without a hitch. For those times where things don’t feel quite comfortable or convenient enough for you, you can press the Steam button to pull up a controller menu. You can tinker with the settings yourself, rebind buttons, and even upload your layout to the Steam community. Likewise you can search for a layout for the game you’re playing, and download the one you like best.

BTSteamController2

These profiles can also be stored on the controller. So if you take the pad to a friend or relative’s for couch gaming, you won’t have to reconfigure your controller settings. You can also toggle an onscreen controller HUD, showing you where you’re pressing as you play. You may find this handy as you’re experimenting, trying to get things the way you want them.

When playing games that require you to type, or if you’re just surfing with the Steam browser, a handy onscreen keyboard comes up. Unlike the old days of slowly moving a cursor with a D pad or thumb stick letter by letter, you can quickly use your thumbs. The trackpads simulate the feel of texting on a smartphone. It won’t be quite as nice as an actual keyboard. But if you are using your TV as a monitor, with your computer in the entertainment center, it is quite convenient.

BTSteamController3

Which is really what the controller sets out to do. Make PC gaming, and other tasks viable from your couch. It’s very successful in that regard. The interface feels quick, and comfortable. Navigating Steam with it is intuitive most of the time. With Valve adding more functionality to Big Picture Mode, even playing your albums, or browsing sites online becomes fairly easy from the couch.

I put mine through the paces, and found I was pleasantly surprised with it. Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams was very easy to play with it, though using the left trackpad as a D pad took a little getting used to. The face X,Y,A,B buttons, are laid out exactly the same way as on the Xbox 360, and Xbox One controllers, so it wasn’t long before I was jumping, and twirling to victory.

Broforce also played very well with the pad. I had no issues running, dashing, jumping, and shooting. I was able to do everything about as easily as I could using a 360 controller. In some rounds it was easier, as the 360 pad is notorious for registering angled commands when you’re certain you’ve pressed directly horizontal, or vertical commands.

BTSteamController4

Speaking of which, I also used the controller with Ultra Street Fighter IV. This also worked favorably. Once I downloaded a 360 pad profile to the controller anyway. The only other issue I had with the game is that while the left track worked wonderfully as a D pad for vertical, and horizontal movement, it wasn’t ideal for the quarter circle, or charging moves. I found myself using the thumb stick instead. Beyond that, I was able to control the game nicely.

FPS are another genre the pad works with very well. I fired up Rainbow Six Siege, and had no issues with it. The right trackpad is much closer to the responsiveness of a mouse than a thumb stick ever could be. It felt about as responsive as Nintendo’s Wii Remote Motion Plus. Having that precision on a traditionally shaped controller could be a Godsend to anyone who prefers playing shooters with a game pad. It still isn’t as precise as a good mouse, but for the comfort of gaming from your couch it is a viable alternative.

BTSteamController6

Strategy games also benefit, as the right trackpad, again makes mouse movement palatable for fans of game pads. When it comes to any current games, this controller is actually a really good solution. But that’s not all. You can also get many old games, and games you don’t have in your library to work with it. Adding shortcuts in Steam using the Add non-Steam game to my library option means you’ll be able to use the controller with those as well. This is nice because you can fire up your Origin or Uplay account through the Steam client to play your EA, and Ubisoft games. Or your retail disc games.

That being said, in some of these cases you might have to go through many hoops to get things working properly. Either through painstakingly making your key bind list, or having to do file edits or tweaks. In these instances you may just prefer to use a cordless keyboard or mouse since it is a lot less you’ll have to deal with.

BTSteamController5

But overall I’d say the Steam controller does succeed in making HTPC’s a viable option. It’s cool to be able to fire up your computer into Big Picture Mode, and control almost everything with the controller. Some people will notice that almost anything on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 is also on the Steam store. Then they may realize that these titles can be played on their big screen HDTV as well. This may make some of them pause, and wonder why they don’t use a computer in their living rooms instead.

But it still doesn’t have the mass market appeal needed to ignite that grand exodus. The simplicity of a game system isn’t quite there. Though this controller, in conjunction with Big Picture does display the massive gains made on the way to satisfying that goal. If you’re serious about building or buying a Home Theatre PC for living room gaming, the Steam controller is an excellent choice. Just know there will still be a few situations where you may still need a traditional keyboard, and mouse.

If you’re PC gaming at a desk, and need a controller for genres where a game pad is preferable, then there are a couple of contenders. The Steam controller again, is an excellent choice. When compared to the bulk of PC gamepads, there’s really no comparison. But Microsoft’s Xbox One pad is going to be a little bit more convenient. Any multiplatform game is going to recognize it in Windows 7, 8.1, or 10 since the OS has drivers for it. But it isn’t an open, and shut case since you’ll need something like Xpadder to map buttons for old PC games, and titles with no modern controller support anyway. Moreover, the Steam controller’s trackpads are again, much more responsive than the thumb sticks on the console controllers.

BTSteamController7

As far as the overall feel, and build of the device, it stacks up positively against the competition. It’s around the same size as Microsoft’s controller, with the lighter feel of Nintendo’s Wii U Pro controller. It’s easy to get to the buttons on the face, and top. There are also two buttons under the battery cover. One on each side. The battery cover is designed to be pressed to click either of these. Being able to use it wired or wirelessly is also a nice touch.

Ultimately, the controller is geared more toward those interested in gaming on an HTPC. But it’s still a very nice option for gaming at the desk. While it isn’t quite as plug, and play as an Xbox One pad, it still has some big advantages. Being able to save custom key settings is a great feature. The trackpads are much more accurate than a thumb stick, making RTS, FPS, and other genres easier to play. Most other genres play just as easily with the right settings. It’s not going to be perfect for everyone, but that doesn’t make the controller any less versatile. Valve’s controller is a highly recommended peripheral.

Final Score: 8.5 out of 10.

TTX Tech Classic Controller for Wii & Wii U Review

With the fourth Super Smash Bros. having been out on the Wii U for a few months now, many are starting to look at controller options. Of course when  you want to invite company over for those 8 player match ups you’ll need to have enough controllers to go around. Obviously the most popular set up among the most devoted fans involves two of Nintendo’s Gamecube controller hubs, and eight Gamecube controllers. But considering the rarity of the hubs, that can get pretty difficult to pull off. If you’re frugal you may want to repurpose your original Wii accessories instead.

But what if you don’t have quite enough game pads for your Wii motes, and want some new alternatives? Ever since Atari was king of the console hill there have been third-party controllers. In almost every case they’ve been barely passable options when compared with the first-party originals. But they usually seem to do just well enough to continue seeing releases. Yet every so often one comes along that is pretty close to the performance of an original controller. Today’s contender is the TTX Tech Classic Controller.

PROS: Similar form factor to the Nintendo Classic Controller with some innovations.

CONS: The altered textures on the thumb sticks take some getting used to.

LIES: Contrary to what the box tells you, it does not plug directly into the console.

The TTX Tech Classic Controller is one of the better non Nintendo branded controllers you can pick up.  For the most part it works on par with the Nintendo Classic Controller. It has the same layout as that controller, so all of the buttons will be as easy to get to as the first party option. There are also a few minor improvements to boot.  The Z buttons on the top of the controller between the L, and R buttons have a nicer click to them.  They feel more mechanical. It becomes clearer that you’ve fully pressed them down, than on Nintendo’s own controller. The L, and R buttons also have a very minor change in sculpt that some might find a little more comfortable.

Comfort is king, and that’s where this peripheral tries to make an improvement. By adding rubberized grips. To be honest, this doesn’t really do much to improve grip or comfort to the experience. It doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, but it doesn’t really feel necessary. Nintendo’s controller is already pretty comfortable, so it feels like a case of trying to solve a problem that isn’t there. Nevertheless, there are probably some who might prefer the rubberized grips during long marathon sessions.

The controller is also surprisingly durable. So often peripheral makers will cut corners by using brittle plastics that easily crack on impact. If a sore loser shows up at your gaming shindig, they may end up in pieces after a string of losses. That isn’t to say that TTX Tech’s offering will survive that kind of onslaught. But if you drop the controller, or really clamp down on one of the buttons during game play, it probably won’t break. The quality of the plastics aren’t going to be quite as good as what Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony demand the contracted factories produce for themselves. But it also isn’t flimsy stuff. There’s still a nice heft to the controller, while being light enough to retain a comfortable feel. It also has some added flex to the wiring going into the controller to prevent kinks or breaks inside the cable. Overall the construction here is pretty nice compared with other controllers.

 

On the face of the controller are the X, B, Y, A buttons,  +, -, Home buttons along with the D pad, and two thumb sticks. All of them work as you’d expect them to, performing the way they’re supposed to. The one change that sticks out here is the difference in the texture on the thumb sticks. The rubber is a heavier, thicker style. They also have a much different feel than Nintendo’s offering. The end result is that while the response time is almost identical, it might take you some getting used to. Especially if you’re already used to using the Nintendo Classic Controller.

I put the controller through the paces in Super Smash Bros Wii U. I was able to play the game with this pad just as well as I could while using Nintendo’s own pad. Even advanced techniques like combos, and pivoting were achievable using it. The different feel of the thumb sticks, again, did take some getting used to.  But for anyone other than the absolutely most unwavering enthusiast, it is a pretty good option for Smash.

 

Other games ran perfectly fine with it as well. I had no problems playing Punch-Out!!, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, or Metal Gear Slug Collection in Wii Mode at all. Tekken Tag Tournament 2,  Mario Kart 8, and  Super Mario 3D World seemed perfectly playable with it too. Even classic ROMs from the Nintendo Eshop ran fine. Mega Man, Donkey Kong, and Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts gave me no trouble. The controller had no serious signs of input lag. Nothing seemed odd or unresponsive. Certainly not enough to affect my experience playing games with it.

 

To sum everything up, the TTX Tech version of the Classic Controller is a pretty competitive facsimile. It’s on par with Nintendo’s product in almost every way imaginable. If I had any complaints with it, it would have to be the different feel of the thumb sticks, and the needless addition of rubberized grips. There aren’t any functional problems with the controller. If you’re looking for an alternative to Nintendo’s first party offerings that isn’t going to give a detrimental experience, give this one a spin. Ultimately, Nintendo’s controllers are still going to be the preferred options. But if you need to save money, or simply want to try something else, the TTX Tech Classic Controller might be what you’re looking for.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury Gaming Mouse Review

So there you are playing some (Insert game title) after a gruelling work day to unwind. Suddenly the left mouse button sticks, becoming too responsive or unresponsive. You ALT+TAB to your desktop to fire up a document, only to find that your mouse won’t highlight text properly. It isn’t a software glitch. It’s time for a new mouse. One you can play games on, as well as multitask with during your day job.

PROS: 8 buttons. A CPU for enhanced polling. Ergonomic.

CONS: Brittle plastics.

GIMMICKS: The backlit logo you won’t see with your hand covering it.

Logitech’s G402 is part of a line of gaming mice. Some of them focus on MMORPG players, and add a lot of macro keys, while others go more bare bones. There are some that are cordless, some with rechargeable batteries, or other features. The G402 settles itself in the middle of the line, trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none product. Actually, it does claim to be a master of First-Person Shooters. Right on the box. This is due to the fact that it is the one mouse in the line with an ARM processor in it. That’s right. Logitech went through the effort of putting a CPU into the mouse. This is supposed to help calculate the polling, and scanning of the optical sensor for added performance. Logitech calls this tracking technology the Fusion Engine. Which also explains the extremely long product name.

 

The mouse also has 8 buttons on it,  which gives you easy access to functions for most games. Most modern titles will recognize all of the buttons, and allow you to bind commands.  Two of the buttons are dpi switches. the other six are your traditional left, and right buttons. There is the wheel, which can also be pressed as a button. The remaining three are thumb buttons. The dpi buttons allow you to turn the sensitivity of the mouse up, and down on the fly. You do this by pressing the bottom thumb button, called the Dpi Switch. Once you do this three LEDs will light up. Pressing the dpi up, and down buttons then change the arrangements of the lights as you cycle through the settings. It maxes out at a rating of 4000. It’s a carry over from previous lines that can come in handy. Particularly in action games, where one moment you may need to spin 180 degrees on a dime. But in other sections slow things down so you can be a bit more steady.

As the box says, these are features geared toward FPS, and TPS games. But these features may prove useful in an MMO, or RTS as well. Dungeon Crawlers are also a good fit, thanks to the very fast response time. Clicking multiple times is recognized with little to no problem. The mouse is also fairly comfortable. The ergonomic design allows one to relax, and rest their hand as they play.  One frill that makes for a flashy package, is the backlit logo on the top of the mouse. It looks cool. Until you realize that your hand will be over it when you’re playing games, or working on the computer. It’s fun for the initial “Wow!” factor, but fades quickly after that.

 

Logitech also has a specialized utility for the mouse called Logitech Gaming Software. It’s a completely optional software program that you can use to tweak the dpi settings of the mouse, test the movement speed of the cursor, as well as run a click test during a game or other program. The click test will show a grid measuring how often each button on the mouse is pressed. You can also go in under settings to use social media settings, update the firmware or save user profiles for the mouse. The core functionality of the mouse will work fine without the software. But you may find some of these program features useful. The mouse doesn’t include this software in the box though. So you will have to go to Logitech’s web site in order to download it.

I put mine through the paces, and overall it held up to all of the tasks. In Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, I had no troubles aiming bows. Some of the advanced techniques like steering swings came slightly easier.  The mouse performed really well in retro games too. Rainbow Six 3, was generally responsive, and smooth. As were Unreal Tournament 3, and Quake Live.  In some of these games, aiming was a big improvement over my old MX518 mouse which was already pretty good. XCOM: Enemy Unknown wasn’t a game that saw as large an improvement gap, but navigating the menus, and laying out strategies were seamless.

I also put the mouse to work when doing the screen caps for this article. The added sensitivity was nice for some of the clean up process. Working on individual pixels was a little bit easier than it was with the old mouse. The mouse does have one major shortcoming, along with the fact it doesn’t have certain features. The main problem I have with the mouse is the lower grade plastics in it compared with previous mice. The plastic on the right, and left buttons especially feel thin, and even a little brittle in places. If you take care of your electronics this will probably be a non issue. But if you’re the kind of player who slams their mouse on the desk when things get heated you might be replacing it sooner than later. That isn’t to say you have to treat this mouse like fine china. It can certainly hold up to a lot of clicking. But you also don’t want to beat on it. As for some of the features you might wish it had? Well, people who love to macro everything to their mouse may want to pay more for an MMO mouse, or an industrial performance mouse. If you’re not a fan of corded mice, you may want to spring for one of the many wireless gaming mice instead.

But if you’re looking for a good all around mouse that will sate most of your gaming needs, and work needs it fits the bill pretty well. It’s responsive, it’s comfortable, and does have enough buttons for the average player. Will it take your skills from beginner to pro? Probably not. But it will likely be a step up from your three-year old gaming mouse. It will be a flat-out leap for those of you on a stock mouse that likely shipped with your OEM PC. If you’re in the market for a gaming mouse, the G402 Hyperion Fury is worth a look.

Final Score: 8 out of 10