Sunday, November 12, 2017

Control Issues: The Faster Blaster

          Video games are an interactive medium, this is part of their very nature. An interesting aspect of the hobby is that, short of bundling a controller with the game, the creators of the games don’t get much of a say in how we interact with their creations. Further, a robust market of third party manufacturers makes it so that even the companies responsible for producing the gaming consoles themselves don’t get the final say in the form and function of the input devices we use to play games on their hardware. All of this is to say that anyone who collects games likely has a plethora of control options beyond those that shipped with their systems at their disposal, from cheaper knock offs of the first party controllers to options specialized for certain games to true oddities that purport to improve on some short coming of the more standard options. In each article in the Control Issues series, we will take a deep look at a particular controller and then try to evaluate it in terms of both form and function.

Believe me, this thing feels worse than it looks (and it looks pretty bad).

          In this Control Issues, we are taking a look at product of Transcriber Company Incorporated: The Faster Blaster. This is one of the oddest controllers that I have in my personal collection. As a controller for the Atari VCS and other systems that use that controller standard, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is simply a cheap third party keyboard controller replacement with an overlay. The truth, however, is much worse. First, the build quality of the Faster Blaster is atrocious. Rather that the hard plastic shells favored by pretty much all other manufacturers, Transcriber decided to use a cheap, flimsy feeling plastic that seems only slightly stronger than the kind of plastic that things are regularly packaged in. The Faster Blaster literally bends and flexes in normal use. Making matters worse, the front is not an overlay; it is a membrane keypad that maps out the functions of a normal Atari joystick. All of the function with none of the tactile feedback.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Retro Game Treasure Mystery Subscription Box #1

          I've been tempted to give subscription boxes a try for a while. The idea of receiving mystery items in the mail each month seems fun, but after watching my friends brief experiences with Loot Crate and its derivatives, I have always decided not to give in to that temptation. The boxes all seemed to be packed with far too many useless trinkets that would just end up as clutter and, believe me, I have enough of that already. Further, many of the items that I’ve seen come out of the more mainstream subscription boxes are tied to properties that I have little to no interest in. All of this prologue is to set up that I have found a box that has convinced me to finally pull the trigger. The box in question, the astute readers of this post's title will already know, is Retro Game Treasure. As its name would suggest, every month they send you 4-5 video games for a number of retro systems with a purported value of $35 or more. When you sign up you get to fill out a profile so that they know what systems you have or are interested in receiving games for. You also get to go through the more arduous process of listing out the games that you already own so that you can avoid duplicates. I’m going to give them at least three months before I decide whether to keep them around or not. The first box from Retro Game Treasures showed up at my door a  little while ago so let’s see how they do at making a first impression.