Joystick Kit Review:

Today is a good day! Hang on, actually, no it's not, because instead of hammering the buttons of my latest toy I'm sitting here writing this, and that's quite testing because mty latest toy is the Joystick Kit by GameCabinetsInc and it's an absolute riot! But lets start from the beginning:

 

The beginning

When the postman rings I think it must be another present from my friends at NASA, the package is so huge, and upon opening it my suspicion is confirmed: an impenetrable amount of foamy bits and pieces and strange objects packed in bubble plastic clearly point towards another one of these highly volatile build your own shuttle kits... but behold, what are all these wooden planks and...aaahhhhh... joysticks doing in there? Aaaaah, it's a present from my civilian American friends at GameCabinetsInc :) Kidding aside to the joystick kit comes packed so well protected, you could send a baby in that box and it would arrive safely.

The construction

After half an hour of bursting the plastic bubbles of the wrap (pang pang pang, that's half the fun) I start unpacking all the bits and pieces and thinking about how I am ever going to stick this together and make anything remotely functional out of it. In the package is a CD which carries all instructions you need and I realize quickly that the task at hand will not take a master carpenter to complete. I skim through the instructions with growing impatience and decide to just go ahead and start building this thing. I won't bore you with the details, in summary it took me just over 2 hours to get all the bits and pieces assembled and it was great fun and so easy to do that it actually adds to the enjoyment factor of this product. The instructions are clear, understandable and carry you through the project in easy to follow steps. The wooden parts of the joystick box fit together perfectly and everything has been planned out in detail to make the construction process more like sticking together pieces of Lego rather than building a solid piece of electronic hardware. It goes as far as having the plastic of the cables precut for you so that you do not even need a set of tweezers before connecting them with your IPAC.

Which leads me to the next point:all the parts in this kit of highest quality. The joysticks and buttons are all Happ controls, the keyboard encoder is an IPAC, the wooden planks are all solid stuff and it all fit together neatly.

The installation

Once you're done with the construction of your joystick kit and by now a very proud man (or woman) your proceed to connecting it to your PC and installing the software... hang on... no need to install any software. Since the joystick kit works with a keyboard encoder it basically simulates a keyboard. Your PC will not know the difference and you don't have to install any joystick software. The only thing you need are the USB drivers for the IPAC and installation is completed within a couple of clicks. Connect your keyboard to the joystick kit, connected joystick kit to your USB port (there are other optional connectors such as PS/2) and you're all set. The joystick kit comes preconfigured for MAME so there's no need for fiddling before you can start gaming. For the hard-core gamer the IPAC encoder does of course provide for any reprogramming of the keys and creating several profiles for different emulators (I have to admit that I have not yet played around with this, I've been too busy playing with MAME ever since this arrived)

Gaming

So here we are, finally, twitchy, itchy, impatient and ready to MAME. As with every new joystick my first test is Twin Cobra. The joystick kit passes with flying colors. The stick sits nicely in your hands is responsive and accurate, you wouldn't expect anything less from our Happ controls joystick. The buttons click away happily (no pun intended) and are arranged comfortably on the joystick panel. Great fun, no new high score though, largely due to my inadequacies, I don't think I can ever blame the tool again.

Next up Robotron:of course this had to follow quickly, the two stick setup is virtually screaming for you to play these kinds of games. And it's perfect. I've never had so much fun playing dual joystick games, this is exactly what the joystick kit is built for, and it performs to perfection. Sitting there in front of your screen with a perfect setup you've really get drawn into the action and I would like to mention that this point that unlike other arcade controllers I have used and reviewed the joystick kit's rubber feet really stick to the surface of your table so it sits there solidly without moving an inch. A real pleasure.

Now for Pac-Man: I open the box again, take out a joystick and convert it to a 4 way stick. If you leave the bottom of your box unscrewed this is literally a 1 minute operation. This time I am stumped. The converted 8 way stick performs brilliantly. I do not get stuck, I do not make any wrong turns, I do not inadvertently hit any diagonals, it plays almost like a 4 way stick. Now this has never happened to me before, and maybe I just got lucky. I usually have a pure four way stick with which I do my Pac-Man gaming because none of the other conversions ever allowed me to play error-free. This is as close as it gets without actually getting a 4 way, and I'm in love with this stick for just this reason alone.

Now I go through my series of favorite games including mostly shooters, a few platformers and for the sake of testing a few fighting games. Shooters and platformers are a joy to play. Great, responsive, comfortable and precise controls on a solid joystick kit which sits tightly on your table. As to fighters, I am not a specialist and probably do not have the finely tuned reflexes a Streetfighter pro would have but as far as I could tell my hit all the diagonals I wanted to hit and the button layout easily lets you reach all six buttons.

Conclusion

The joystick kit is all about fun. It's great fun to build and once you see it completed and behave as neatly as it does you get a real sense of accomplishment. It's great fun to play as it performs excellently in all types of games it was built to play. It is a solid top-quality product which consists of industry standard hardware. It's easy installation, programmability and versatility make it a true addition to any games playing household. I highly recommend that joystick kit and once you've seen it in its full tricked out glory with your favourite firewire... you'll be in love...

Versatility, durability, top notch hardware, great customer service (thanks for everything Dave! :)), programmability, I have to give this top marks...close to absolute perfection, I refrain from using numbers :)

If you have any questions regarding this product you can either get in touch with me or contact the friendly people at GameCabinetsInc

-KC-