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Joytech Controller Plus

Third-party controller reviewed

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Joytech Price: £19.99 Joytech is a name that frankly no-one's ever heard of. They produce accessories for home consoles, including the Playstation, N64 and Dreamcast, and they also run off a group of Gameboy Color bits and pieces. Their trademark seems to be to undercut the prices of official units and try and alter the design of the official ones slightly, for the better. Third party controllers never really appeal for me. The garish neon designs and fluorescent buttons just look out of place on my carefully laid out desk, and the controllers have a tendency to break, too, from experience. For example, I bought an official Super Nintendo controller a few years ago, and an unofficial model from some cowboy accessories outfit. The official model works, to this day, but the other unit is unresponsive and damaged. Not to mention blister-inducing. Still, you can't judge modern day products by yesteryear's standards. There's every chance that these companies will have learnt from their mistakes, and capitalised on the time in between. Probably.

The Controller Plus

The units I were given to play with were matching green and orange Joytech Controller Plus 'pads for the Dreamcast. Both came in nice cardboard packaging, which looked and seemed professional. First impressions are always important in this industry, and I felt suitably contented by mine. Upon opening the box, I was presented with a fairly light (but not tacky) plastic controller, nicely packed. The packaging came away easily and I was left with the controller. Gripping the pad, my initial reaction was that it was larger (both in breadth and depth) than the official model. The official model gives your palms space to breathe, but if you're reaching around the shoulders of the Joytech, you'll find that you're fully extended. My younger brother could barely get his little paws around it at all!

Comfort Zone

Unlike the official model, the Joytech has leather grips where the base of your thumb rests, which is surprisingly unobtrusive, even after a few hours of use. The surface is much smoother than you might think from a quick visual inspection, and is hardly abrasive at all - just enough to prevent it slipping. Again not like the official model, the Joytech deprives your palm of oxygen and you get rather sweaty under there, but your thumbs remain perfectly dry, rested upon the leather grips. However, the design is such that unless you have particularly large hands, you may strain your fingers moving them across to press the Start, Slow and Turbo buttons. Such is the positioning of the latter two Joytech-only buttons, that its also very easy to accidentally depress them and start/stop the function. I don't like the function of those buttons either, to be honest - the Slow button Pauses and Unpauses the game in quick succession, creating a stop-starty "slow-mo" effect. This is distracting, rather than useful, though. Turbo is slightly more worthwhile, although a dastardly cheat in games where quick button tapping is the objective, as it basically takes away the need to do so.

Button Blasting

The usual four buttons sit on the right hand side of the centre, overshadowed by the new Z and C buttons. I'm not sure what the situation is with these buttons, whether you can reprogram games to use them or whether they just mirror the action of the shoulder analogue buttons, but they're easily accessible and the same size and shape as the other four. On the left hand side is the usual D-Pad/Analogue-Pad combination. The D-Pad is bulkier than its official counterpart and somewhat chunkier. However, the buttons depress with a much more satisfying click, and are more intuitive to use than the official ones in games such as Soul Calibur and Marvel Versus Capcom. The analogue pad is basically identical in feel to its official adversary, but for some reason, unbeknownst to this reviewer, it has a little concave indentation in the centre. This causes blisters like nothing else and is the only real design fault in the whole pad. Unlike the disastrous analogue pad, the shoulder buttons are an improvement. There's more resistance to the compression of said buttons and this makes them seem more tangible than their official competitors, which click down with little opposing force.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Aesthetically the pad is nothing phenomenal, but it's hardly ugly. The fluorescent colours mentioned previously are rather 1995, but the marginally translucent effect (half showing the circuit boards beneath) are more up to date and quite eye-catching. The centre of the pad is elevated a tad, with a curved half-moon shape whether the memory pad screen is viewable and a Joytech logo just beneath. The memory pad screen hole is flanked by a vertical texture in grey, with lines interspersed between the grey to catch and reflect the light. To the eye, the Joytech is a pretty model. The reverse is a slightly less translucent white and is standard to every model. The main translucent cover on the front changes between the green and orange model.

Play-test

After a few hours, I can report on the pad's performance in several different genres. Firstly, in Crazy Taxi the pad holds up very well. Both the default and my own personal control set-ups are very easy to use on the Joytech. The extra breadth of the pad subtly allows you to widen your arm span, and as such is moderately more comfortable, as your arms curve in a more natural position. Soul Calibur revealed much the same, with the D-Pad actually proving preferable to the official model's. The biggest major design difference between the two pads though, also proved to be my favourite. On the official pad, the cable that connects the Dreamcast to the pad comes out of the bottom and curves under, toward the console. Joytech have modified the cord so that it actually protrudes at the top of the pad. By doing this they have solved the one design flaw that I found in the official option. The cord will not strain and bend so much, and thus the pad will last for a longer time than the normal one, in theory at least.

Conclusion

Personally I prefer the new Joytech range of Dreamcast controllers. The pads are very comfortable to use for the most part and the control lead comes out of the apex, not the foot, meaning the cable won't develop loose connections so soon. Available in a whole host of neon-like colour schemes, the pads are fairly cheap and cheerful, but also pack a lot of value to their punch. If you need to stock up on a new pad or two, you could do a lot worse than pick up a Joytech.

9 / 10

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