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X-Arcade Tankstick - Dual Controller With Trackball
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Date: Jan 18, 2008
Section:Misc
Author: Jeff Bouton
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Introduction and Product Specifications



Many of us have fond memories of playing video games in the arcade of a local bowling alley, popping 25 cents into the machine on a regular basis to keep the fun going.  Back then, that was the main way to get your game on, displaying your skills for all to see.  If you can remember dropping quarters into the slot of a machine running Pole Position, Galaga, Missle Command or any other game of that era, you might like the business model of X-Arcade.

Reminiscent of the days when quarters ruled the video game market, X-Arcade has built a product base of custom game controllers that are built to the same standards of the video game systems of yesteryear.   The company also puts a strong emphasis an authentic feel and solid construction that's backed by a lifetime guarantee.

Today, we're going to take a look at the Tank Stick Dual Controller with Trackball, which offers a classic gaming feel with head-to-head competition thanks to its dual joysticks.  For those who can remember scrounging up quarters to go play their favorite video game, the Tank Stick Dual Controller with Trackball will definitely take you down memory lane.

X-Arcade Tankstick - Dual Controller With Trackball
Back to the Future

Retail Package Contents:
X-Arcade Tankstick
Connectors included::
USB and Keyboard/Mouse PS2
PLAYSTATION 3 ADAPTER (Optional)
USB PC/MAC ADAPTER (Optional)
XBOX ADAPTER (Optional)
PLAYSTATION 2 ADAPTER (Optional)
X-ARCADE PC ADAPTER (Optional)
DREAMCAST ADAPTER (Optional)

Details:
Trackball Functions As A Standard 3 Button Mouse
4 Left/Right Pinball Flipper Buttons
Play Head To Head Fighting Games Like The Local Arcade
Fully Programmable For Support On Gametap Service
Play Thousands Of Your Favorite Arcade Games Of All Time
Add-On Adapters Work On Any Game System
*(no console support for Trackball)
Joystick/Buttons compatible with existing X-Arcade Adapters

Support:
* 30 Day Money Back Guarantee
* 100% Fully Serviced Lifetime Warranty
* Toll Free And Online Live Technical Support

18 Full Version Arcade Games:
12 Atari® Classics for PC Use:
Asteroids
Asteroids Deluxe
Battlezone
Centipede
Crystal Castles
Gravitar
Millipede
Missile Command
Pong
Super Breakout
Tempest and Warlords

6 Full Version Midway Titles:
Gauntlet
Defender
Smash TV
Robotron
Rampage
Joust.


         
X-Arcade Tankstick

Along with the Tank Stick Dual Controller with Trackball, X-Arcade includes a PC adapter (required), Installation Manual and a collection of classic games that should bring back memories for those who remember playing these titles years ago.
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The X-Arcade Tank Stick: Up Close


As soon as you lay your hands on the Tank Stick, those of you who've spent your fair share of time with classic arcade machines will feel a bit of deja vu.  About the only thing missing from the Tank Stick is a coin slot.  This model comes equipped for twice the fun with dual joysticks and buttons as well as a center mounted trackball.  The name Tank Stick seems appropriate as the unit is extremely sturdy lending to a quality feel and comfort in knowing the product should offer a ton of trouble free usage.
 

     

 
The Tank Stick has a durable black textured surface adorned with an oversized X-Arcade logo with the Trackball falling in the center of the emblem.  Each left and right controller comes with eight supporting buttons that can be programmed for various functions.  Each joystick has a solid feel, yet moves with no restriction.  On the left and right sides are two additional buttons to support pin-ball style gaming as well, which also double as coin deposits when playing emulator style games using such emulators as MAME.

     


Connecting to a Mac or PC is easily achieved through the use of either USB or PS/2 (PC Only) connections.  The joysticks have their own connection, appearing as a keyboard to the computer system while the trackball appears as a mouse.  This approach is rather simplistic, making for seemless setup and compatibility as the unit is identified as common keyboard and mouse inputs, needing no custom drivers.  We tested the unit with Windows XP Pro 32-Bit, and both 32 and 64-Bit flavors of Vista Ultimate with no problems whatsoever.
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Installation and Setup Scenarios


One of the most interesting aspects of the Tank Stick, as well as all of X-Arcade's various controllers, is that each model can be used with a broad array of console units when coupled with a custom adapter.  The adapters retail for $19.95 each.  The serial connector on the back of the system marries up to each adapter for easy connection to the game console of your choice.  Currently, X-Arcade supports Dreamcast, XBOX, Playstation 1 and 2, Nintendo WII and GameCube.  The XBOX 360 has unofficial support which requires an after market adapter that costs $80 and needs to be coupled with a Playstation 2 adapter as well. 


Common PC/MAC Setup
 
Common Game Console Setup


To interface with a typical PC or Mac, the Tank Stick can be connected using either the PS/2 or USB plug, but not both.  The PC or Mac cable connects to the Serial port while the other end connects to a PS/2 or USB port
Connecting to any gaming console is relatively simple with the appropriate adapter as well, although the Trackball is not supported with gaming consoles.





The Tank Stick is also capable of custom profiles or modes when used with a PC or Mac.  The rear of the unit sports a
mode switch which slides from 1, 2, 3, and 4.  1 is the default configuration and cannot be changed, however, when set for 2, 3, or 4, the Tank Stick can be programmed following simple steps.  We should note that programming requires a PS/2 keyboard.  Once connected, all of the units controls can be reprogrammed to virtually any combination you can come up with.  The biggest problem may be getting your hands on a PS/2 keyboard to complete the task.  Fortunately, with the key map above, it may prove more convenient to custom configure the controls in the game settings if extensive options are available.
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Usage, Impressions and Final Thoughts



Performance evaluation: 
With a product of this nature, there isn't any benchmarking that can be done per se, but we can give a general impression of the Tank Stick's performance with various gaming titles.  First and foremost, installation was extremely simple.  In our test bed, both the USB and PS/2 connection worked perfectly, even with Microsoft Vista Ultimate 64-Bit.  Once installed, we loaded the game CDs that came with the Tank Stick and got down to business. While playing such games as Defender, Rampage, Tempest and Centipede, the feel of the old style arcade games was just like I remembered it as a teenager.  Not only was it fun, it was addictive, and what was meant to be a routine assessment of a product became hours and hours of kickin' it old school.

Next, we shifted to modern gaming to see what kind of potential the Tank Stick had.  First off, the unit was not a good controller with FPS games as targeting precision just wasn't that great with the trackball.  You can use the joystick and a mouse, but then the size of everything on a desk became cumbersome due to the Tank Sticks size.  We tried F.E.A.R, Crysis and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and we quickly found that these were not practical applications for the Tank Stick.  A good fit for the Tank Stick is racing games such as Need For Speed and even Flight Simulator X worked, but the unit needed a degree of programming in the game settings, which was a little time consuming.  Since the Tank Stick does have a key map in the manual, it is possible to configure much of the controls within the game settings rather that programming the Tank Stick itself, but even that can be a daunting task.




It's obvious that X-Arcade is targeting a niche market with Tank Stick Dual Controller with Trackball.  If you're the nostalgic type, there is no denying the pleasure of going back in time to play the games we all remember as kids, and better yet if its with an authentic feeling game controller.  With sturdy construction and an true arcade game feel, the Tank Stick Dual Controller with Trackball doesn't fail to impress.  However, like the games it's modeled after, the Tank Stick and its other family members are inherently stuck in the past. 

While the Tank Stick was a great fit for the classic gaming titles we sampled, usability with modern gaming titles is limited in our opinion, especially with any games that require precision targeting; mainly first person shooters.  Nonetheless, if you wanted to give it a try, the Tank Stick will work fine, and with some configuration, can work with virtually any game on a PC or console.

Overall, even though it's a niche product, it's hard not to enjoy this product.  Having the chance to revisit some of the games I played as a kid with a controller that is true to the game's era proved to be a lot of fun.  It's possible that the X-Arcade product line may be lost on some of the younger gamers out there, but for those of us with a few years under our belts, X-Arcade has some toys that may bring back fond gaming memories.  The Tank Stick Dual Controller with Trackball retails for $199 at www.x-arcade.com with lesser models weighing in at around $70.  They even offer a full arcade style unit for $2199, which includes 199 classic games built in.  Let the games begin.
 



 

 
 
  • Solid Construction
  • Authentic Arcade Controls
  • Easy Installation
  • Broad Compatibility
  • Classic Titles Included
  • LifeTime Warranty
  • Limited Market
  • Pricey
  • No Trackball Support with Console Games


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