Are you a competitive gamer? Do you lie awake at night, visions of glorious noob slaying battles in your head on dusty Counter Strike streets? Do you want an edge over the gloating competition? Well then, you might want to pick up Sandio Tech’s latest gaming mouse, the Game O’…but you’ll also want to take a few things into consideration first.
I’ve been excited about the Game O’ for some time now, since E3 to be exact. I gave it a quick test-drive while I was in Kentia Hall (a moment of silence for Kentia and E3), and I was quite impressed. This mouse, theoretically, lets you game with just one hand, freeing up your other hand for extraneous keyboard control. The Game O’ has three digital mini-sticks on its left, right, and top surfaces. These sticks can have any keyboard function mapped to their four directions, most notably the WASD or Up, Down, Left and Right functions.
For casual shooter gaming, this eliminates the need for a keyboard. This sounds immensely liberating at first, but this mouse won’t become a god-weapon from the first time you wrap your fingers around it—you’ll need to practice quite a bit with it, as I discovered. Sandio used Unreal Tournament 04 as their showcase of the Game O’s abilities. Now I’m not all that skilled in UT to begin with, so I practiced mostly on something more my speed: good old Half-Life Deathmatch Classic.
The need for practice was apparent right from the start. I was bumping into walls, trying to duck and jump while cycling weapons, and aim all at the same time. And that’s when I realized something was wrong, because I was being consistently schooled by bots, which is embarrassing to say the least.
My main difficulty comes from the placement of the scroll wheel, or mouse button 3. The top mini-stick is far out in front, in the position usually reserved for the scroll button, and the scroll is tucked in a few centimeters behind this stick. With a regular mouse, my index finger, when not hammering the left shoot button, rests naturally on the scroll wheel. I typically assign the scroll function to cycling weapons, and a quick tap of the scroll button as a jump. On the Game O’, my finger rests on the top stick, with the scroll button lying under the middle of my finger, out of reach.
So, I had to reassign jump to another button, direction or stick. I thought this would be easy at first, but I just couldn’t find a location that I was comfortable with. I ended up putting jump on the keyboard’s spacebar, which kind of defeats the purpose of one-handed control. Maybe the problem is just the size of my tiny Yoda hands, but I imagine that a large handed gamer would have even more difficulty using the scroll wheel. Longer fingers would make for a better reach on the primary two buttons, however. At least there was plenty of rest space for my hand; the Game O’ comes with a wide, removable base to alleviate pressure on the wrist.
That issue aside, I began experimenting with the directional capabilities of the mini-sticks. The left side stick is the most comfortable to use for standard forward, back and left-right strafing, because naturally my thumb rests on the left side of the mouse. With a little getting used to, I’m sure I could use it as competently as WASD. Some rubber grip padding would be a nice addition, though. Above the left stick are two small, non-programmable ergonomic secondary buttons with forward and back functions. Pressing the two at the same time will adjust the mouse’s DPI resolution in-game (with a maximum of 2000 DPI), which is a nice feature. The right stick makes the mouse ambidextrous, but I’m not quite sure what I’d use the top stick for. I figure it’s basically the same thing as a hat-switch for flight sims, but I’d rather have a dedicated joystick if I’m playing old-school TIE Fighter. As I stated earlier, the top stick was really just an impediment for my use of the scroll wheel. My index finger is always on the left trigger button, so to use the top stick effectively I’d have to get comfortable moving a stick with my middle finger, which is an odd proposition to say the least.
What this mouse lacks in comfort, it makes up for with flexibility for a large number of games. Instead of interfacing with each game’s internal mouse settings, it has an independent program that lets you set up individual control schemes. Once installed, you access the mouse’s menu and load up a control profile for a specific game, then run the game. The proprietary software comes pre-loaded with a list of popular shooters and some other PC titles, and you even have the ability to create your own custom templates for new games, or customize the old ones.
Over the course of a couple weeks, I tried it out on Half-Life, the aforementioned UT 04, Jedi Academy, various incarnations of Quake, and even my old favorite, Doom. Working out control schemes for each game was time consuming, but in the end I was happy that I could tweak most any option on any of my games. For the hardcore audience, certain stick/button combos can be programmed—for example, pressing different directions on two sticks at the same time could perform a special move. The flexibility of this mouse is practically bottomless, if you don’t mind twisting your fingers.
For standard PC use, such as word processing or surfing, the Game O’ needs some minor adjustments. The sensitivity, at least on my desktop, was far too high to use effectively, so I kept the Game O’ plugged into a secondary USB port as a standby gaming mouse. I couldn’t find any sensitivity sliders in the mouse’s own setup program, but some hunting around in Windows config will remedy that problem.
I have one last complaint—the Game 0’ model that I reviewed has an inexcusable plastic squeak. It made the aggravating noise every time it was bumped, and I determined the source of the noise to be the right mouse button. I hope this is just a factory defect for my review model alone, because only real mice are supposed to squeak, not gaming ones.
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Sandio’s Game O’ mouse is the first to test the horizons of gaming mice, but don’t expect it to be a magic bullet to cure your Counter Strike woes. It takes practice, just like anything else, and the odd placement of the top stick, which makes accessing the scroll wheel difficult, may gripe some keyboard-mouse purists. That said, the Game O’ performs well with a wide variety of games and can be customized for just about any title on the market. Check it out if you want to experiment with your shooting style.