Writer Andrew Monkelban knows a lot about the ins and outs of video game controllers. As a disabled gamer, Andrew uses a variety of game pads and sticks to play video games in creative ways—like beating Final Fantasy XIII on a fighting game pad. In his first guest review, Andy explains the benefits of Mad Catz's latest Brawl Pad.
Third-party video game controllers, while inexpensive alternatives to first-party ones, can be a crap-shoot as far as quality goes. Some are well-made and reliable, while others break easily. Even so, they keep being produced. So what category does the Mad Catz WWE All Stars Brawl Pad fall into?
In 2009, Mad Catz started shipping Street Fighter IV Fight Pads, controllers specifically designed to be used to play Street Fighter IV. In 2010, another batch was shipped, this time for Super Street Fighter IV. While made for WWE All Stars, the Brawl Pad is the newest incarnation.
The Brawl Pad is basically a Fight Pad with a WWE graphic on it. Like its predecessors, it comes in 2 flavors: A wired version for Xbox 360, and a wireless version for PlayStation 3. While I have both (Well, both a Xbox 360 and PS3 Fight Pad, and a PS3 Brawl Pad), I'll be reviewing the wireless version. It comes with an USB dongle that plugs into your console, and the controller itself runs on 2 AA batteries. I'm not certain of the battery life, but they last at least 12 hours.
The Brawl Pad has the same shape as its predecessors, which is similar to the shape of the revised Sega Genesis controller. One of the first things anyone will notice about the Brawl Pad is that it lacks analog sticks. This is because the Brawl Pad is for a fighting game, namely WWE All Stars, in which the analog sticks are almost never needed or the directional pad (D-Pad) and the left analog stick have the same function.
However, that isn't to say it doesn't have analog stick functionality. On the bottom of the controller there is a switch that allows you to set the D-Pad as the D-Pad, left analog stick or right analog stick. This feature is useful for playing games that may otherwise be incompatible with a digital controller.
People who play fighting games on consoles know all too well just how lacking the D-Pad is on a standard controller. However, the Brawl Pad D-Pad feels solid and very sturdy. It's a complete circle, unlike on a standard PS3 controller, and more responsive than a Xbox 360 one. It is nowhere near perfect, but it's a massive improvement over the standard D-Pad.
Another stand-out feature is its 6-button layout, which gives the controller more of an arcade cabinet feel, something fans of fighting games will appreciate. What I mean by 6-button layout is that in addition to the 4 action buttons that you'd find on the face of a standard controller (Cross, Circle, Square, and Triangle on a PS3 controller, and A, B, X, and Y on a 360 one), the Brawl Pad also has L1 and R1 (LB and RB on 360), which are located on the top of a standard controller. This is the only difference between the Fight Pad and the Brawl Pad — Instead of L1 and R1, the Fight Pad has R1 and R2 (RB and RT on 360) on the controller face.
Help with accessibility in games can come from the most unexpected places, such as peripherals created for other games and/or genres. While made for fans of fighting games, the Brawl Pad's layout is also beneficial to physically challenged gamers. For example, I bought the Brawl Pad specifically to help me play Final Fantasy XIII. The main gameplay mechanic in combat, the Paradigm Shift, requires you to press L1. This is difficult for me with a standard controller, because I can only use my right hand, as well as L1's placement. However, with the Brawl Pad, I can pull it off quite easily. Previously, the Fight Pad has helped me in the action game, Bayonetta.
Like with its predecessors, the Brawl Pad has Turbo or Rapid-Fire functionality. For me, this is especially useful in action games, in which you have to repeatedly press a button to attack. To enable the Turbo, you hold the Turbo button and press what button you want the Turbo to effect. To disable it, you just hold down the Turbo button until the Turbo light comes on.
Even if it does run on AA batteries, the Mad Catz WWE All Stars Brawl Pad, like the Fight Pads, is a well-built third-party controller that emulates the feel of playing on an arcade cabinet, and is quite helpful for physically challenged gamers because it provides access to two of the 4 shoulder buttons. Personally, I think a regular controller should be made with the 6-button, or even an 8-button, layout, but I digress. I would definitely recommend this controller to fans of fighting games and physically challenged gamers. The price isn't that bad either: As of the writing of this review, the Brawl Pad retails for $29.99 USD new at GameStop.
Andrew Monkelban is a gamer who was born with Cerebral Palsy which has rendered him unable to walk or talk, and left him with the use of only his right hand. Even so, he has not let it stop him from doing what he loves. A gamer for close to 20 years, he has continued to overcome constant challenges on various major systems. He enjoys a broad range of genres, with his least favorites being racing, sports, and first-person shooters. In spite of playing one-handed, he has beaten such games as Ninja Gaiden 2, Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption, and the Kingdom Hearts franchise, among others. He has also been featured in Second Skin, and on Wired's GameLife and The Escapist. In addition, he also writes for PopTen.net.
You can follow him on Twitter at @monkelban.