Saturday, May 6, 2017

On the Right Track

So hey, that trackball arrived! That's him on the right, next to the joystick with a kazillion buttons.

It's a lot smaller than I was hoping, and clearly designed for the less strenuous task of home office work. However, the Kensington Orbit works reasonably well as an arcade controller, pinch hitting for my broken spinner in games like Block Block and performing well beyond expectations in Atari's Star Wars. Intercepting those pesky fireballs is a breeze when you can just roll your crosshairs over them.

Some games that didn't work well with the Orbit include SegaSonic the Hedgehog, Major Havoc, and Space Harrier. SegaSonic is no big loss; it kind of sucks anyway, as nice as it looks. Major Havoc tends to be a little finicky with any controller you throw at it, and I never cared for the floaty, auto-centering movement in the arcade and later console versions of Space Harrier. Say what you will about the Game Boy Advance version of this game in Sega Arcade Gallery, but at least you're not constantly being dragged to the middle of the screen!

Trust me, it's better
than it looks.
So it's a net plus for the Orbit so far, but what really makes the trackball shine is the Atari release Quantum. This game typically gets ignored in favor of that other arcade title with trackball controls and a subatomic theme, Reactor, but don't believe the hype! Quantum is way better, challenging players to draw circles around floating particles to destroy them. It feels like an ancestor of the touchscreen-based games of today, and it's honestly perplexing that Atari hasn't capitalized on this with a remake. I'll be reviewing Quantum in the future, but in the meantime, get yourself a trackball and give it a spin. (The trackball and the game, I mean.) I think you'll be impressed.

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