A year before announcing the final specifications of the PlayStation 3, Sony showed off a controller that looks remarkably like one of Batman's batarangs. The curved body was roundly attacked for its radical departure from the standard DualShock pad Sony had been peddling. After listening to the outcries of consumers and journalists alike, the home electronics giant opted to stick with the same basic design they had used for over a decade. Most would agree that this was a wise decision.
Flash forward a few years and suddenly Batman is at the peak of success. Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight is the third highest grossing movie of all time and Rocksteady's Arkham franchise has singlehandedly rejuvenated the super hero video game market. Batman is suddenly relevant, so it shouldn't surprise anybody that somebody would go ahead and make a batarang-themed game controller.
The Batarang Controller (yes, that's what it's called) comes to us from Power A. Regardless of whether you think this is nothing more than a cynical attempt to cash-in on the Arkham City hype or a fun new way to show your allegiance to the Dark Knight, the Batarang Controller turns out to be a decent wired game pad.
The controller is roughly the same size as the standard Xbox 360 model. Instead of white and gray, it's gray and black. Each of the handles is lined with rubber, making it easy and comfortable to grip. The face buttons protrude out further than what comes with the stock controller, but not to a point where it impacted gameplay in any noticeable way. After spending a few hours using it to play Skyrim and The King of Fighters XIII, I started to forget that I wasn't using the traditional Microsoft pad.
Beyond the slightly different batarang shape, this controller's real claim to fame is the way it lights up. There are six lights at the top of the pad (between the LB and RB buttons) and two handles that light up when plugged int. There's even a little switch between the "back" and "start" buttons that allows you to change the color scheme. The colors include yellow, blue, pink, red, green, blue and white. You can also have the lights completely turned off, if that's your thing.
Because it's a wired controller, I was also able to use it on some choice PC titles. I went all the way through Jurassic Park: The Game using the Batman controller and it felt like I was playing a console. I also tested the pad out on some of the legal emulators sitting on my computer and had no troubles getting it to work as advertised. I would argue that this Batman controller has a better D-pad than my Xbox 360 controller, though I have yet to spend any time with Microsoft's newly remodeled pads.
With the exception of adding lights and a slightly different shape, there's nothing new or innovative about the Batarang Controller. It works perfectly as a wired pad, which is about all you can hope for from a system nearing its seventh year of life. The colors are a nice touch (and they impressed by friends, who immediately wanted to buy one), but it adds very little to the practical game playing experience. With a slightly higher price tag (no doubt due to the licensing fees), this probably wouldn't be my first choice. But if you're a big Batman fan and need a wired controller, you can do a lot worse than Power A's Batarang Controller.
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