Monday, March 29, 2004

InterAct AxisPad Gamepad

Rating: 1 out of 5
Pros:Inexpensive, similar to the PSX controller Cons:Sticky, unresponsive buttons, force feedback don't work

Introduction

First off, let me say that I was never a big user of computer game pads. In fact, I had only ever owned one game pad until last year, when I bought two inexpensive ones from Wal-Mart to try out. One of those two was a Saitek P150, and the other was this InterAct AxisPad.

The AxisPad is compatible with Microsoft Windows 95/98/ME and XP, as well as Macintosh.

I ultimately bought two of these controllers. After I brought the first one home, and started trying to play with it, I realized that one of the buttons was broken, and another was sticking so badly that it was unusable. I brought it back, and exchanged it for another identical controller. My mistake, I guess, because the second one wasn't much better.

Features & Layout

The AxisPad is a semi-transparent blue color. You can look through the casing and see the circuit board, some wires, the motors and weights for the force feedback. The AxisPad is also available in purple, but the blue color was the only one that Wal-Mart had on the shelves at the time of purchase.

At first glance, the AxisPad seems to be a clone of the popular PSX controller from Sony. There is a directional pad, two analog joysticks (which can be pressed and used as extra buttons), and four buttons arranged in a diamond on the right hand side. They are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 instead of square, triangle, circle, x though. The start and select buttons on the PSX controller are replaced with enter and esc buttons, respectively.

There are similarly two buttons on the left top, and two more on the right top, to correspond to the L1, L2, R1, and R2 buttons on the PSX controller. The final button is situated between the two analog sticks, and is labeled mode/game set, and is similar in usage to the same button on the PSX controller. It is used to switch between analog and digital control modes.

This controller is also supposed to have force feedback. If you look at it, you can see a weight in the left hand side, and a smaller weight in the right hand side of the hand grip. These unbalanced weights spin around, making the controller vibrate unevenly, to simulate the force feedback. The only problem with this, is that it has never worked for me.

The AxisPad is really cheap feeling too. It's really thin, and very light weight. You might not want to squeeze it too hard while playing something like a sports game where emotions run high. You might also want to be careful not to drop it, as it might just break. Overall, it just has a really flimsy feeling too it.

My Experience

When I got this controller home and hooked it up, I decided to try it out and see how I liked it. Installing it was just a matter of plugging in the USB cord to the computer. It worked right from the start. That's cool, but I figured I should probably install the drivers from the included CD, rather than take a chance on the default Windows 98 drivers. There really seemed to be no difference after installing the included drivers, but I figured it was probably best to keep them.

I plugged in a few games, and proceeded to give it a complete testing, and see what it could do. First came a racing game. I noticed right away that the directional pad was just plain terrible. You really have to mash the heck out of it to get your car to move. The analog stick was a little better, but it tends to stick if you push it up and left. The esc and enter buttons don't map correctly half of the time, and the bottom shoulder button on the right side is unresponsive. I don't know quite what the InterAct testers were doing with these things, but they sure are big pieces of junk.

The force feedback never worked at all. You can look and see the motors and weights, they just never kicked in or turned. A big disappointment, as this was the first PC controller I ever owned with force feedback capabilities, and I was looking forward to trying it out.

On the plus side, the controller fits well into your hands. Not quite as well as the PSX controller, but maybe that's just because I am used to using the PSX controller I guess. It is a hair bigger than the PSX controller, and the directional pad is bigger as well. The shoulder buttons are shaped differently, as are the esc & enter buttons in the center. All the buttons are in roughly the same position though.

If you look past the unresponsive and sticky buttons though, it would be a pretty good controller. Maybe if you get lucky, you can get a controller that works right. If so, you will probably be extremely happy with it. That was just not the case for me, such is my luck.

Conclusion

I would only recommend this controller if you can't afford a better one. Unresponsive, sticky buttons, and non-working force feedback make this one a bit too cheap for it's own good. I still have mine, but I rarely use it. I keep it only because it was so inexpensive, and I havn't really had the money to go search out and purchase a better controller.

Even my Saitek P150 was better than this, but has less buttons, no force feedback, and no analog sticks. If you are looking for a decent quality PC controller, take a look at some of the latest offerings from Microsoft or Logitech.

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