In honor of Rocksteady Studios’ Batman: Arkham City, Power A teams up with Warner Bros. to bring you the officially-licensed Batarang Controller for anxious PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 Bat-fans. Ever since I got to play around with an unfinished version at E3, I’ve been anticipating spending some quality time with the finished version, and despite a few small issues concerning wireless play and button arrangement, it didn’t disappoint. While this review primarily concerns the PS3 version, Xbox 360 users should know their version is pretty much the same, minus the slight color differences and the lack of wireless play (which for some might be considered a positive).
As soon as I picked it up, I liked how the controller really does feels like one of Batman’s gadgets, as it’s thin, sleek, and sports a hard armor-like feel to it. Just like their Air Flo controller, it has rubberized reverse analog sticks, a great d-pad, and the standard face and shoulder buttons that all feel solid. The L2 and R2 buttons have small, curved tips that make them feel more trigger-like, which is bound to help during first-person shooter games. There’s also rubber-coated grips on the handles and cool LED lights with a color change button that allows you to cycle through seven different colors that light up at the top of the pad.
Strangely, there’s really nothing about the Batarang controller that feels unique or particularly handy to the Batman universe, apart from its design. But for all the little bat geeks out there, there’s also a sticker featured on the back that lists the authenticity of the controller, this being an officially licensed collectible item and all.
Another great thing that separates this controller from most third-party efforts (including the Air Flo) is that it’s wireless, and uses a cool Batwing-shaped USB dongle to connect to your PS3 using the handy on/off button to easily sync. There’s also full motion-sensing and dual-rumble support, and comes with a six-foot mini-USB cable to charge the internal battery, with a battery button you can press to check how much power is left, so you’ll always know if it’s time to charge or not.
Now to the flaws with the controller. While it’s neat that the Battery, Select, Home, Start, and color-change buttons form a Batman symbol at the top, some people (myself included) might find themselves not liking the button size or arrangement all that much. While a clever design, I found myself constantly hitting the Battery or color-change buttons while scrambling to press Start/Select, even accidently mashing the Home button too often. This led to some pretty frustrating moments when I needed to quickly respond when real-life events came up (hurrying to answer the door, bathroom break, etc).
Then there’s the bittersweet tradeoff of that handy wireless feature, which means sacrificing one of your PS3’s USB slots as the controller uses true wireless and not Bluetooth. Even worse, if your battery gets low while playing and you want to keep soldiering on, you’ll have to connect the included cable to another USB slot, which renders any other peripherals, like USB headsets, pretty much useless at that point. Of course, this isn’t a problem for the wired Xbox 360 version, but such is often the case for using third-party controllers on your console. And like most third-party controllers, you can’t turn on the power with this controller. While these problems are minor, some may look at them as deal-breakers, especially those looking to replace their stock controllers with something Batman-flavored.
Power A’s Batarang Controller is a solid choice for those looking to replace their stock controller, or just those wanting to complete the Batman: Arkham City experience. True, there’s nothing inherently Batman-like about the controller, but it does sport a robust build, a great d-pad, responsive analog sticks, and great buttons – not things you’ll get with every third-party offering. It felt great in my hands, and being able to cycle through different-colored lights was definitely a nice touch if there’s not enough blinking LEDs in your life. I wish the top-face buttons forming the Bat-logo were better arranged, and as nice as having wireless was (at least on the PS3 version), having to sacrifice my USB slots was disappointing. Despite these flaws, its an easy recommendation, as it’ll have you shouting “I’m Batman” in no time, no matter what game you’re playing.
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