Thanks to Arcade Wednesdays the Xbox LIVE Arcade is vastly becoming a hive of games both old and new. With such classics from Pac-Man to Timepilot, controlling these types of games can become a frustrating experience when playing them on the Xbox 360’s Wireless Controller. This is when we bring in our product for review, the Arcade GameStick from Mad Catz for the Xbox 360.
The Mat Catz Arcade GameStick retails at wallet friendly £24.99 and is available from a range of selected high-street stores and e-tailers such as GameStation, GameStop and Amazon. This isn’t such a bad price considering what comes bundled in the box. Inside the colourful packaging you will find not only the controller but also a collection of redeem codes for three Xbox LIVE Arcade titles – Astro Pop, Frogger and Timepilot, and should you not already be on LIVE there is also a 48-hour free Gold membership to get you started.
The Arcade GameStick is built from a heavy duty plastic, solid enough to take the punishment from any button mashing gamer. Its white colour fits in well with the rest of the Xbox 360 peripherals on the market today, unless you own an Xbox Elite or Halo 3 console that is. The main striking feature of the Arcade GameStick is its joystick handle which is securely attached to the left analogue stick and has a single action button perched on the very tip. The positioning of this action button makes playing games such as Timepilot a breeze, though playing more modern games in this way isn’t as rewarding.
Dotted around the rest of the controller you will find the standard array of face buttons, L and R triggers and a right analogue stick. Mad Catz has added some additional features to the Arcade GameStick such as a turbo switch and a 360 degree rotating dial positioned around the base of the right analogue stick. Personally I don’t find much use for turbo switches in the games tested with the Arcade Stick. The 360 Spinner Control dial on the other hand is more suited for a selection of Arcade titles and will not work on others. Games such as Astro Pop or Zuma fit in well with the 360 Spinner Control or any kind of Arcade title that had originally used a trackball as their primary control mechanism.
As you can see from the pictures in this review the base of the unit is very square, which will sway many users to either love it or hate it. When in use the Arcade GameStick can be a little awkward at times as you seem to change the way you hold the controller based on the type of game you play. When using the main joystick you want to put the controller on a flat surface, like when using a real arcade stick, while using your middle and index finger on the face buttons, but when doing this you cannot use the shoulder buttons. So alternatively on some games when L and R buttons or triggers are required you are forced to gasp the right side of the controller and use your thumb on the face buttons. The sensitivity of the left stick can be a little high too, to a point when I was playing Frogger with the D-Pad and there were times that a jolt of the controller could send the left stick backwards, resulting in my little green frog taking a step back and into oncoming traffic! The 360 Spinner Control takes some getting used to, the bundled game Astropop makes full use of this dial control, though I found it much faster to use the D-Pad in the end than the actual Spinner Control itself.
One of the positive sides to this controller is in fact the D-pad. Let’s be honest, the D-pad on the official controller is little useless, and makes playing some of the more classic Arcade titles a little disappointing. Mad Catz seem to be aware of this and has made changes to their Arcade GameStick by using the traditional NES/SNES style “plus” design to the D-pad. This makes the Arcade GameStick a joy to play some specific titles that lacked the responsiveness with the official pads, mainly beat-em-ups and pac-man. The bundled titles show off this controller’s abilities to the fullest, but it’s only these titles and a few other classics on Xbox LIVE Arcade that will make you pick this controller over using an official pad. It goes without saying – if Arcade beat-em-ups such as Street Fighter 2 are your thing, then you will be better off purchasing a proper Xbox 360 arcade stick such as the Virtual Fighter 5 or Dead or Alive controllers.
The folks at Mad Catz has seen the Xbox LIVE Arcade explosion and have harnessed the best of what classic games Xbox LIVE Arcade has to offer, and developed a controller tailor made towards these specific games. The additional features in this controller could have been more than desired when it comes to playing the more modern and technical Arcade titles, but if your Xbox LIVE Arcade library is full to the brim with simple cult classics, then the Mad Catz Arcade GameStick is an accessory worthy of consideration.
You can help support the site by purchasing Mad Catz Arcade GameStick from Play.com for £24.99 . Click here and we will take you directly to the product’s page at Play.com where you can buy the Arcade GameStick today!
Anthony is the designer, developer and owner of Console Monster. In his spare time, Anthony is a keen gamer who enjoys playing mostly First-Person Shooters and Racing games. When he is not developing games or tweaking this site, Anthony likes to be on the slopes snowboarding or hurtling down off-road tracks on his mountain bike.