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.
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.