All this talk of broken controllers reminded me of this old horror. Inspired by my mate’s robust, classy Powerplay Cruiser (and autofiring Turbo) joysticks for his Amiga as well as a knockdown price of £8.49 in Boots and the promise that unlike most other sticks it was Sinclair-compatible, I begged for one of these as an Unbirthday Present despite the foul colours.
Now, when it comes to 8/16-bit computer gaming or modern takes thereon I’m a redefinable keys fiend, even if I do usually redefine them to the keys that the Interface II/Sinclair joystick controls emulated. More direct, intuitive and accurate every time, think of the keyboard as a fat controller!
I did previously have a grey Sinclair joystick which came with my +2 and was pretty naff, making everything feel more approximate, which is the last thing you need when attempting pixel-perfect jumps on Dynamite Dan. I did get some use of it for Daley Thompson’s Olympic Challenge though (a sports waggle-fest with some typically great Jonathan Dunn music). The +2 joystick went loose to the left and then went into my box of bits.
When I got the Powerplay Cruiser home, it looked just as ugly as it does in the main photo. I sincerely do not know what that colour scheme was about, especially the big pink stick with a knob on the end. Seriously? The textured body also felt a lot more plasticy than my mate’s different model joysticks too.
I don’t even remember which games I tried it with. Treasure Island Dizzy certainly, Operation Wolf doubtless, Deviants probably, Behind Closed Doors unlikely, Zanthrax definitely not. What I do remember is that despite the satisfying click and the rewarding precision with which I could actually get the direction I was attempting first time, despite it being as good a joystick as you could get for the Speccy, it wasn’t precise enough. Even with an adjustable stiffness setting there was no way I could get those little, inch-forward-one-pixel moves that were so crucial for the unforgiving no-inertia platforming norms of most Speccy games. Gah!
(I had a similar heavy-handedness (-thumbedness?) problem with my first DualShock for the PS1. That drove me nearly mad with frustration until I forced myself with sheer bloody-mindedness to tiptoe the cars round even on the straights in the original TOCA Touring Car Championship)
The joystick lasted a week before giving up the ghost inexplicably. Having learnt my lesson I hadn’t even been near a waggler. I think a wire became loose either in the stick itself or the split connector (which unlike the picture also had a short grey lead with a second D-connector for use with the Spectrum).
I owned numerous games that wouldn’t load except under a full moon, which I’d periodically try and retry anyway on the off-chance that three-and-a-half minutes later today would be the day. I didn’t know much but I knew persistence. I could have jiggled or unscrewed things on that joystick. If I’d had any sense I could have tried to get a replacement or my (Mum’s) money back.
No. Into the box of bits with it!
“67980 SPACE ENTER” for life, after trying “CHEAT” first of course!