Reviewed: December 18, 2002
Reviewed by: Mark Smith

Manufacturer
Xsonic Hi-Tech Inc.

Type: Force Feedback Gamepad
System: PlayStation 2

Rating: 6.3

MSRP: TBD


You may or may not have heard of Xsonic Hi-Tech. I’ve been working with PC’s and video games for over 20 years and until last month I had never heard of them. This Taiwan based manufacturer specializes in PC components such as motherboards, video cards, optical storage devices and accessories for PDA and notebooks. Now they have set their sights on the home video game market with their new line of Quick-Retract Joypads.

The concept for this device has long been a dream of mine. In the game testing area here at GCM we have no less than five consoles all funneled into a single TV via a switchbox. Three of these consoles support four controllers, all of which are plugged in. That’s 16 controllers for those of you who forgot your pocket calculators. The resulting tangle of cords is a total mess and often requires several minutes of pre-gaming untangling before we can even play a game.

Options are limited when it comes to eliminating this problem from which many owners of multiple gaming systems suffer. You can either go with the cordless controllers, which cost significantly more money, and either requires frequent battery changes or lengthy sessions on a recharge pedestal, or you can be a responsible gamer and neatly coil up your controller cable after each gaming sessions – yeah right.

Xsonic Hi-Tech has solved this problem with a design that is so simple I’m surprised somebody hasn’t figured it out before now. This is the kind of creative genius you might stumble across if you watch those late night infomercials long enough.

Quick-Retract Joypad Features:

  • Quick Retract Function!!!
  • Quality joypad fully compatible with PS2 Dual Shock 2
  • 256 Level pressure sensitive buttons
  • 8 way analog D-Pad
  • Analog/digital switch
  • Slow motion function /Turbo function
  • Dual vibration motor
The Quick-Retract Joypad is a combination of a custom controller and a retractable cable that is housed in a spring-loaded casing. You can pull out as much cable as you need from the 230cm (about 7.5 feet) available inside the case. When you are done playing you simply push the button on the side of the housing and the cable is whisked neatly inside leaving you with about 16-inches between your console and your controller.

The tension in the retractor is very high, which means you will have to hang on to the housing with one hand while you pull out the cord. If you simply pick up the controller and walk toward the sofa you will unplug the entire thing from the console in the process. Likewise, the retract mechanism doesn’t have the torque required to drag the gamepad across the floor so you will need to help feed the cable back into the housing. It is only a minor inconvenience and still certainly faster than coiling 8-feet of cable manually.

Since the retractable device only works with the Xsonic controller you are going to have to decide if the novelty of an auto-coiling cable is worth giving up you favorite controller. For me, this was a major obstacle because I have long grown accustomed to the MadCatz line of controllers for all of my systems and change is never good. Regardless, I sat down and took this gamepad through the paces with a variety of games including action, adventure, platform, and simulation.

The PlayStation 2 controller is molded from smooth plastic with no texture or ribbed grips. This immediately created the “sweaty palms” syndrome if I played for any length of time. The size and overall shape of the controller is nothing like any other controller I have seen for the PS2. The entire design looks like something you might find on Batman's utility belt.

The unique shape of the controller makes it one of the most comfortable gamepad to hold, but when you have to start using it the design falls apart. The stick placement and D-Pad are identical to any other controller and the 4-button cluster is in perfect place for your thumb to get easy access, but the four shoulder buttons are now in a location that is very awkward. If the PS2 only had two buttons you could easily reach them with your index fingers but to be able to use all four at once requires an unstable grip on the rest of the gamepad.

To make matters worse the Start and Select buttons are right next to each other, designed to look like a single button split in half, so if you have large or adult-sized thumbs you will find yourself hitting the wrong (or both) buttons at the same time. Where the Start and Select buttons should have gone you will now find the Turbo, Slow, and Clear buttons. The gamepad has a powerful rumble feature that generates some of the strongest effects of any PS2 controller I have tested.

There are several things to consider when deciding if the Quick-Retract Joypad is right for you. The design for this gamepad is just "too different" for many gamers, and you will probably find it much too difficult to adapt to the new trigger locations which is a shame because this is easily the most comfortable PS2 gamepad you will hold in your hands. The convenience of the retractable cable is a great idea, but the awkward gamepad design negates any benefits you get from not having to clean-up your own cables.

The Quick-Retract Joypad is still being finalized for retail release. If you are interested in obtaining one of these new retractable controllers keep checking the Xsonic website for details on pricing and places to find yours.