Game Over Online ~ Zeta Joypad

GameOver Game Reviews - Zeta Joypad (c) Be Interactive, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Zeta Joypad (c) Be Interactive
System Requirements Pocket PC
Overall Rating 85%
Date Published Monday, January 14th, 2002 at 12:56 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Compaq has gained a mix of notoriety and fame for its expansion sleeves. That's not to say Handspring's Springboard or the various accessories for other PDAs, like the always innovative Casio, didn't set the precedent before. But, the way Compaq has solidified itself into a kind of blue-chip stalwart in the Pocket PC arena, expansion sleeves have become almost commonplace. Just like with the emergence of next-generation consoles, there is also bustling activity amongst the accessory players, jockeying to cash in on the lucrative side-market. There is one drawback to adopting the use of an expansion sleeve. You won't be able to use the other sleeves you bought previously in tandem. Thus, like with all things in life, you'll have to mix and match.

Undoubtedly, this article will draw some references to Tigerex's Q-Pad. In many ways, Zeta's Joypad addresses the shortcomings of that product. It does not come in an expansion sleeve but rather hooks on to the iPaq via a cable that is similar to how the Stowaway Keyboard attaches to the PDA. Both these avenues of expanding your PDA, unfortunately, mean you can't use them on other Pocket PC brands; a slight drawback for those PDA aficionados who have more than one PDA. The Zeta Joypad gives you about a foot long of slack so you can utilize it comfortably away from your PDA. The experience is not unlike playing a game on a mini-console. Think about emulators for classic consoles and you can see some of the potentiality in this. The Joypad is shaped like one of the many first generation PC gamepads I used to find. Gravis comes to mind for some reason. That is not to say that is a bad thing. Amongst many complaints against the Xbox, the point about the un-ergonomic controller seems to come up the most. Sticking with a classic design has its values. The Joypad doesn't have all the fancy features of modern gamepads like left/right triggers and force feedback. Feel and use of a gamepad is really subjective to what you are accustomed to using to. I, myself, for example, am not seven feet tall but I found the Xbox controller more than intuitive. The buttons, here, are okay to touch. They don't require too much force to press on it. This is a good thing since it allows for prolonged usage without too much physical stress. The gamepad appears to be made entirely of plastic. It is light and this is good for portability but some added weight might have been better. There is a four directional d-pad that can be used in eight directions, depending on how you configure the driver software. The d-pad itself could have benefited from more feedback. It's elevated enough that you don't have to dig into the gamepad to get to it but the d-pad controls don't press down enough so without visuals I have to wonder if I actually pressed left or right. Of course, it isn't a horrible drawback. Human beings, above most animals, can adapt very easily.

The Zeta Joypad, like the Tigerex Q-Pad, easily solves the simultaneous button problems with the iPaq. It allows for eight directions for diagonal action and this came in handy for shooter arcade games. Installation was a snap with the Zeta Joypad, even though the CD that shipped with the product was noticeably cracked. I was still able to grab the drivers and the free Tetris game off the disc. You can also download more up to date drivers via the manufacturer's website. The drivers load on to your Today taskbar. Moreover, there is full support for Pocket PC 2002. You can use the driver software to map various buttons to the gamepad, toggle the driver on/off and keep the iPaq backlight continuously on (a feature we saw in the Tigerex Q-Pad software). Perhaps the one trump the Zeta Joypad has over its predecessors is the ability for the driver to orient against your iPaq's display. If you play a game that operates in landscape mode (Rayman Pocket comes to mind), your directional buttons on the Tigerex Q-Pad, and others, are completely reversed. With the Zeta Joypad, the driver software is able to accommodate for this and lets you select a variety of orientations.

There is one slight caveat emptor I have to add to all of this. The online manual doesn't state clear enough that you should turn off all your other drivers. I've been lauding how these drivers are very conspicuous and have a low footprint on your PDA. The Zeta Joypad's software is no different. But unfortunately, these drivers cannot co-exist with each other. For example, my Stowaway driver kept expecting me to hotdock the PDA to the keyboard. This prevented the driver software for the Joypad from enabling. In a sense, this seems like a moronic fault on my part. Yet, I'm sure some people will undoubtedly run into this snag too.

Unlike other accessories, the Zeta Joypad's connection is very sturdy. After I hitched it on to the PDA's bottom, I didn't have any worries about it falling off. It was hard to use without a flat surface for the PDA to rest on and it's definitely not something you can wield on the go. Thus, the Zeta Joypad appears relegated to stationary use, probably around your A/C adapter (if it is not connected to the cradle). Whereas there was some ambiguity as to where the Tigerex Q-Pad should reside, the Zeta Joypad rests comfortably amongst your PDA docking area. It can comfortably accommodate expansion sleeves, including the all-important CompactFlash one. You can also plug in direct power to it without any complications.

Holistically speaking, the Zeta Joypad appears to solve many of the problems I pointed out with the Tigerex Q-Pad. With it, you sacrifice a bit of mobility although it is light enough to be taken along in a small purse or bag. It could prove to be valuable on an airplane flight or in a hotel room. The Zeta Joypad's d-pad is perhaps the crux of the whole device. It may be a little too weak for some people. Like the one-foot cord slack away from the PDA, it is a love or hate situation. There's also no answer to the emergence of purely styli driven gameplay. Could a gamepad help titles like Hexacto's Tennis Addict or does the work have to be done by the software developer? Many of these gamepads are coming out for the iPaq first. One primary reason for doing so is to solve the simultaneous button issue with the device. For the emerging hardcore PDA gamers, these devices could also save you from potential wear and tear on the PDA device themselves. Obviously, the manufacturer of the Zeta Joypad had some of these goals in mind and they have solved them admirably. What's more, you also get a free Tetris bonus to pound away on. It's not anything to write home about but it should keep you occupied while you hit the net to download some new ones.


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