I received a review version the the new Syzygy Company’s Classic Atari 2600 stick a couple months ago. It was right as my mom was going in and out of the hospital, so I didn’t get a chance to review it them, but now I have a little extra time, so I can do a nice little write up. First of all, these are awesome, so go buy one if you play any emulated Atari, C=64, ST, or Amiga games on your PC or Mac.
This version of the Classic USB Stick is slightly different than the original from a few years back. it’s sturdier (I broke the first version and re-glued it back together like 25 times but it always continued to work), and it actually comes in two pieces. The stick screws into the base. I’m not sure why, but it does makes it easier to send in the mail. I think it makes for easy replacing too.
So, now, on to the games. There are some very good classic Atari 8-bit computer joystick crunchers that need a good 8-position stick rather than a set of emulated keys, an analog stick or a D-Pad. Here how each fared while testing on the Altirra Emulator.
Control in Pacman is judged by how well the on-screen avatar will “corner” at quick speeds. I don’t think this version has ever had the best cornering capability, but the USB Stick does a pretty good job of emulating the arcade action. It’s not quite as precise as the arcade cabinet, but it does work much better than an analog stick or the cursor keys. To better test the stick, I next tried MS. Pacman, which was a much better conversion for all systems.
Now this is more like it. The cornering and control is much more precise than in the original and is a joy to play. I’m not certain why the original doesn’t work as well, but it was one of the first games available by Atari for the computers, so maybe the joystick routines were improved by the time Ms. Pacman was released.
Again, just as with Ms. Pacman, this title really shines with an 8-ways stick. It is one of the best home versions on Donkey Kong (one of only a small handful to have all 4 original screens), but it is also a technical marvel given the small size (16k cart rom). Running, jumping, turning around at speed, and everything else needed to have “Jumpman” save his girl is easily accomplished with the spot on controls.
Berzerk, especially the Emulated versions, requires very precise control. The kind of control that only a classic era joystick can provide. This because you need almost pixel perfect screen placement to shoot and dodge around the corners as the enemy robots are seriously viscous and will stop at nothing to “KILL THE HUMANOID”. The Atari 8-bit version of the game is excellent, containing all of the speech, graphics, speed and arcade awesomeness of the original arcade version. The USB Stick holds up just as well as the conversion, offering precise screen positioning as well as firing.
The new Syzygy Company’s Classic Atari 2600 stick is more than worth the currently discounted price of $15.99. It is well constructed, and above all else, mimics old-skool controls so well, you will think you are playing on the original hardware.