Requirements: Mac (2 USB ports) or PC (2 USB or 2 PS/2 ports)
The X-Arcade Tankstick combines the X-Arcade Dual Joystick and Trackball Mouse controllers into one unit, saving desk space for gamers. As with Xgaming’s other products, the Tankstick is a solid unit made of melamine-surfaced hardboard, trimmed with “authentic” arcade-style T-molding. This unit is the largest offered to date, measuring 29.5″ wide by 13″ deep and weighing in at a significant 20 pounds. Xgaming offers a lifetime warranty with free parts replacement for all of its products.
The controller has enough inputs to satisfy most gamers. Two self-centering joysticks and 22 buttons frame the large trackball centered on the top surface. The right and left sides have two buttons each, one for mouse-button input and one for “insert coin” or pinball use. The back of the Tankstick has two additional buttons and a sliding switch for customized setup and programming options.
Two additional cables are included, a combined USB-PS/2 cable and a serial cable for use with optional console adapters. Mac and PC users simply attach the USB-PS/2 cable to the back of the console and plug either the USB or PS2 (not both) into the computer. No specialized drivers are required to use the Tankstick with either Macs or PCs, since everything on the controller is recognized as standard keyboard or mouse input.
For game console users, the dual joysticks on the Tankstick work with the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, Gamecube, and Dreamcast with the use of the appropriate adapter and serial cable. The trackball works on PlayStation 2 consoles with the standard USB cable, but the Xbox consoles require an additional USB-to-Xbox adapter. PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Xbox 360 consoles can also use third-party mouse-to-console adapters for trackball use.
Windows versions of Atari Anniversary Edition (Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone, Centipede, Crystal Castles, Gravitar, Millipede, Missile Command, Pong, Super Breakout, Tempest, and Warlords) and Midway Game Bundle (Defender, Gauntlet, Joust, Rampage, Robotron: 2084, and Smash TV) are included. Intel Mac users with Boot Camp and Windows XP installed can play all of these arcade classics without the use of emulators or online services.
Setup for most games and emulators requires only changing the software preferences, specifically the keyboard and mouse settings. For games that do not offer control preferences, there are three hardware programmable settings accessed with the sliding switch on the back of the Tankstick. Position one is the non-programmable default configuration, but positions two through four are easily setup for use with non-configurable games and online services such as Gametap.
Emulators work well with the default hardware setting, since most have software preferences for both general and specific game use. To configure emulators for the trackball, use the analog control input options. Setup is similar for MacMAME, MAME, MAME32, and X-MAME.
While running a game in MAME, pressing the Tab key displays options for controller settings.
The Tankstick works extremely well with many first-person shooter games. The joysticks and buttons replace the keyboard and number-pad inputs, and the trackball replaces the mouse.
My test unit’s construction and finish was flawless, without defects or blemishes, and when plugged in it was immediately recognized by both Mac OS X and Windows XP. It worked with all games and emulators tested, including the bundled Atari and Midway arcade games running on an Intel iMac with Boot Camp and Windows XP SP2. The hardware’s programmable settings functioned without a snag. After hours of use, I encountered no control issues with the joysticks, trackball, or any buttons.
The Tankstick offers a good value to gamers, saving $30 over purchasing the Dual Joystick and Trackball Mouse controllers separately. This controller brings a new experience to arcade, FPS, sports, and golf titles that benefit from the trackball, and the head-to-head two-player gaming action makes many classic games more fun.