A couple of weeks ago we received a very mysteries box from a company that we didn't recognize (Performance Designed Products). Being the overworked idiots that we were, mainly because we couldn't put PDP together from that name, we opened the large, heavy box to pull out a gigantic metal case.
Inside that metal case was a glowing heaven of 'Christmas-light' wonder. It contained an assortment of gaming controllers that were wonderfully glowing in our faces. Were we wowed? Hell yes we were. Is this the best presentation we've ever gotten via FedEx? Yes, it was.
More importantly, was this just a cheap stunt to make us love the product instantly? You could argue that question, but regardless it was one of the coolest boxes we've opened this year.
Controllers have always had to be perfect, or damn near it, when it comes to liking them as a gamer. The sensitivity of gamers' taste when it comes to picking the perfect controller is essential. I remember when the first Playstation arrived on the scene, people were already complaining about how the analog sticks were too close to each other. Another example is how everyone simply detested the way the Nintendo 64 controller's analog stick was one of the more uncomfortable experiences of their life. All of these examples are how picky people can get when they don't get the 'near perfect' design they're looking for. One of the best controllers made, which werel probably the best design to date in gaming, was the Gamecube controller. It helped that Miyamoto had some input into it.
Anyway, not to digress here, PDP sent some controllers and we had the chance to test them out and compare them to controllers of the present and past. We found some good things out in the process.
Afterglow AP.1 for Playstation 3
The Afterglow AP.1 is one of the more impressive controllers in the bunch. First, know that it has dual shock inside of it. You can see inside the controller and see the suckers spinning furiously, especially if you tested it out with God of War III like yours truly did. Everything about this controller says 'nice'. On each grip of the controller you have a place that you can rest your middle fingers (laugh now), which is surprisingly comfortable for long-term gaming. I played God of War III from beginning to almost end (stopped at the fight with Zeus -- roughly about 6-7 hours) and didn't have one moment of uncomfortable gaming.
What's weird is that my palms didn't get sweaty, much. I'm not sure if it was my awesome, unwavering confidence with the game or the glow of the light inside that kept drying my God of War worries away, but they pretty much stay dried the entire time.
Now, the best part of the controller was how the analog sticks were placed. Call me crazy, but this design was very close to the positioning of the 'c' button on the Gamecube controller. This design, again, was one of the better designs in gaming history and it was nearly the same feeling with the Afterglow AP.1. Very comfortable, more so than the PS3 controller from Sony. Amazing, if you think about it.
Good can't come without some bad (says the cynical reviewer), and there are a couple of knocks on the controller.
The first knock is that it isn't wireless. I'm assuming that is to cut down on cost, but if you're the gamer that has to be 50 feet away from the television then you need to start scooting your seat closer. For some people this might be a deal breaker, but for me it was just a small hindrance. I'll buy a controller cheaper ($24.99) if it means sacrificing my laziness.
The second, and final, knock on the Afterglow AP.1 is the home button. Literally it's a home icon on the button and it controls everything the PS button would control. The only thing it lacks is the ability to turn the system on. Yes, I'm lazy and yes I want it, but I understand that it isn't powered by batteries (rather by system) and it requires the system to be on to work. Still, I want the ability to turn it on from that button and I think there has to be a way to do it.
Afterglow AX.1 for Xbox 360
This is a Microsoft licensed controller and is eerily similar to the official controller. You have pretty much all the buttons in their original places (analog sticks are where they should be, the directional pad is about the same size, etc.). The biggest differences in this come down to two things:
- Start/Select button placement
- Lack of battery pack
Now, the start/select button placement actually makes sense. They're now angled (like two perked up rabbit ears) around the Xbox button in the middle, which is perfect for your thumbs when you need to use those buttons (pick up your 360 remote and place your thumbs out, see where they land).
One of the mixed blessings about the Afterglow AX.1 is the lack of battery pack. Having the extra weight shed from the controller is great. No offense, but MS needs to get with the program (as does Nintendo's folks) and implement the built in battery method like Sony. I'm not sure why they need that there, but it helps tremendously when the battery pack is nixed from the design.
Of course, on the flipside of that coin is that you have to plug up the controller via USB to the Xbox 360 system. Much like the Afterglow AP.1 you get no 'power on' ability with the Xbox button, but you do get the other commands that you're use to using. And just like the Afterglow AP.1 you're wired to a system, so you have to decide how you are going to game connected. Again, like the Afterglow AP.1 you get a controller that is only half the cost ($29.99) of the official controller, so sacrifices must be made.
Afterglow AW.1 and Afterglow AW.2 for Wii
Now the only wireless (in a sense) pair out of the Afterglow bunch is the Afterglow AW.1 and Afterglow AW.2 for the Nintendo Wii. Much like the Afterglow AX.1, there isn't much difference from the official controllers.
The Afterglow AW.1 does have two differences, as the 1/2 buttons are no longer vertical, as they are diagonal and the +/- buttons have changed places.
For the 1/2 buttons, the placement is a bit odd. Though it does work well when you're playing some Virtual Console games, it is slightly jarring to use it when you're so use to the original positioning. Logically, the placement makes sense; it's just difficult to get use to.
As for the +/- buttons, it's an improvement! They are now placed to the left and right of the 'A' button, which makes complete sense when you're trying to use them. It does hurt a bit when you need to use them in classic mode, but when using them for the Wii purposes it's completely perfect.
Shifting gears to the Afterglow AW.2, which is essentially the nunchuk, has some questionable design. While it's really the same sort of design, it does bring a nice rubber pad to the analog stick. That was the worst part of the original Nintendo Nunchuk and a welcomed improvement.
The questionable design falls around the actual wire connection running from the AW.2 to the AW.1. The wire feels incredibly fragile. My reviewer part of me wants to yank on that thing to see if it will rip, but my gamer side wants to spare its life. Regardless, it's very flimsy and seems like it could break easily. Related to that is the ability to retract that wire back into the AW.2. There is a tiny (I mean very tiny) button located on the back of the AW.2 that will retract the cord once you press it. Neat idea, but it's a pain to use, plus in the heat of gaming I would hate to accidentally press that button in some miraculous way; it would really screw up things for you.
Still, can't really beat the price as the Afterglow AW.1 is $29.99 and the Afterglow AW.2 is $14.99. Not bad for what you get.
Outside of usability, the glow each controller emits is pretty cool. It's a neat gimmick that works well. It gives the controllers personality and I'm not opposed to that at all. I think it's much better than off-white and black, or just white. Having the ability to switch between colors is also quite welcoming.