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Review: MadCatz Xbox 360 Microcon Controller

microcon controllerAs a casual gamer with incredibly small hands, I have found myself exceedingly frustrated with the Xbox 360's controllers. I often find myself trying to stretch my hands to reach the controls, especially the control sticks, and after even a short hour of gaming my hands tend to be sore or cramping. A few months ago, I started what became a tedious and aggravating search for a smaller controller. I got lucky and found the MadCatz Microcon controller.

It’s advertised as being 15% smaller than the standard 360 controller, and while 15% doesn't sound that much smaller the difference I found to be significant. The smaller size allows the controller to be comfortably held in small hands without restricting the controllability or downsizing the buttons too much. The trigger buttons extrude more than on a normal controller, which keeps them from being difficult to find on the small controller. The analog sticks are less sensitive than the official 360 controllers which benefits to give better precision when maneuvering characters in tight spaces.

The controller itself is made out of rubberized plastic with raised ridges on the side. The feel of the controller is quite comfortable and gives more grip than the smooth plastic of the standard 360 controller.

Microcon size comparison with standard controllerThe Microcon also features a turbo key, which can be applied to all of the action buttons including the bumpers allowing gamers to avoid the sore thumbs that come as a result of repeated button mashing. Also available is an analog stick invert switch allowing gamers to invert the right analog stick quickly of those that prefer inverse y-axis control, especially in first person shooter.

MadCatz does offer a wireless version of the Microcon but I was unable to find one for review. The initial concern in purchasing a wired controller is that most gamers like to sit back on their couch and game without worrying about accidently dragging the 360 across the room during heated gameplay. However, the cord was sufficiently long enough to not be too bothersome with overall length approximately 8 feet.

Overall, I really enjoyed this controller and would recommend it to anyone who finds the standard 360 controller cumbersome. The price is okay as a third party controller at $34.99, just slightly less than a wired official controller. One downside to the Microcon is its availability as there are a few available on Amazon.com and none through the MadCatz website. In addition, most local video game retailers do not carry the Microcon.

Score: 3/4

$1 Million Prize for Dota2 Tournament at GamesCom

Dota 2 International TournamentThe popular team-based real time strategy Dota is receiving a sequel in dramatic fashion with an invitational 16 team tournament being held during gamescom in Cologne, Germany.

Known as The International, the tournament will be utilizing the new Dota 2 game which hasn't been released to the public. The winning team will receive $1 million in a form of a giant check and can be seen via live stream in which Valve has promised to provide.

Valve has become the primary sponsor in the event providing the prize money for the event with Nvidia giving PC hardware support. Throughout the five-day trade show event, the tournament will consist of a group stage leading to a double elimination playoff format giving teams plenty of opportunity to show off their stuff if four broadcasted languages (English, Chinese, German and Russian).

"The International is the first public Dota 2 event and will give the tens of millions of gamers playing Dota around the world their first look at the new game," said Gabe Newell, president and founder of Valve. "I have had the good fortune to watch the competitors as they prepare for the tournament, and the level of play is extraordinary."

Dota 2 will be available later this year.

Review: GioTeck HF-2 Ergonomic FPS Controller for PS3

GioTeck HF-2 Ergonomic FPS Controller for PS3According to some, the PlayStation 3 controller is not conducive to competitive first person shooter gaming. The Xbox 360 controller is considered to be the standard optimal design which may leave out PS3 users in the excitement. The GioTeck HF-2 Ergonomic FPS controller has set out to solve this problem.

 Taking inspiration from the Xbox 360 controller, the HF-2 features similarly off setting joysticks with the stock PS3 button layout. A rubber-like skin, similar to the "shark skin" controllers of the N64 era, surrounds the controller creating an overall feel that is comfortable to the touch, but its ergonomic design creates a more bulky feel.

The HF-2 is very well suited for gamers with larger hands, but for the average this might not be the controller for you. The crisp lines on the handles have a tendency to rub your palms slightly creating sore spots after a marathon gaming session, and the shoulder buttons are slightly further out of reach than in the stock controller.

The joysticks feature a concave top allowing for a place to fit your thumbs, but the cross hair extrusions actually counter-act this benefit by digging into the thumbs. The bumps, only serving as aesthetic features, make an otherwise well designed joystick a pain to use over an extended period of time.

HF-2 shoulder and trigger buttonsShoulder buttons, R1 and L1, are designed in such a way that the activation point is near the knuckle of your index finger rather than the tip. The hinge of button is located directly under the tip, when resting in natural position, requiring your finger to move down the controller and press rather than simply pressing from the original position. In games like Call of Duty: Black Ops where the L1 and R1 buttons are utilized primarily to shoot, this problem is exemplified even further.

However, the featured control switch at the base of the controller allows for a quick control change from the R1 and L1 buttons (shoulder buttons) to the R2 and L2 buttons (trigger buttons). Basically with a flick of the switch, the shoulder buttons now become the trigger buttons and vice versa. While this switch isn’t really meant for quick in game control, it does allow for the HF-2 to change users quickly who requires different button layouts.

The HF-2 is a step in the right direction for third party controllers on PlayStation 3 highlighted with quality joysticks and buttons. GioTeck had an amazing controller, but the "Ergonomic FPS" idea became too much of a focus in the design. It’s a shame that GioTeck forgot to first build a good controller and then only after add in FPS features.

Retailing for $10 less than the stock PS3 controller and featuring a breathable texture that won’t slip under rigorous gaming, the HF-2 is a buy for gamers with large hands who consistently go on gaming marathons. However, it might be a pass for the average gamer unless they want a very good looking controller to show off at the next LAN party.

Score: 2/4

Review: Stand O' Food for Android

stand o food title screenThink about your favorite fast food restaurant and look back at the kitchen. Not quite gourmet but it gets the job done. The workers take ingredients off the shelves, assemble the sandwich on the table, wrap it up and send it off for you to enjoy.

Envision that assembly process into a game and you got yourself Stand O’ Food from G5 Entertainment.

 Okay, that mental picture doesn’t set up for a good game concept -- but be surprised. You control a burger clerk taking orders and assembling the burgers for the customers.

Read more: Review: Stand O' Food for Android

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