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Is MiniStick the Cure for WASD Phobics?

MiniStick ReviewPC gamers often espouse the advantages of a mouse and keyboard control method. Yet, for players accustomed to the ergonomics of a console controller, using a piece of equipment intended for crafting memoranda can create an unwieldy experience capable of negating any possible benefits.  For those daunted from directing characters around with either cursor controls or the WASD keys, a possible solution may exist in the MiniStick. Convinced and crafted by St. Louis-based Great American Ideas, the ersatz joystick latches onto keyboards via small three hook and loop fasteners. Using a single lever to issue y-axis commands (while teetering across the x-axis), the contraption purports to offer a more instinctual input method, even boasting that the device improved the scores of average gamers by more than 50% during “independent tests”. Naturally, we put the MiniStick’s claim through our own set of trials in an attempt to duplicate these contentions.

Before amassing four gamers of varying skill levels, we scoured our Steam account for two games which would offer divergent experiences, while still entailing a high level of keyboard input. Seeking to eliminate the variability introduced by multiplayer titles, we settled on two different single player games:  the 2D, Defender-esque, Astro Tripper, a game which utilizes only keyboard input. Xotic, a mouse and key-based, first person shooter which is geared toward score runs, was our second game, as it uses a traditional mouse and keyboard input method.

MiniStick ReviewWhen the group of players were first introduced to the MiniStick, skepticism ran rampant, especially in the higher experience levels. “That’s it? Just two little pieces of plastic?”, scoffed the veteran PC gamer, while another player was uncertain if the Velcro-like bonds wouldn’t loosen during intense play. Regretfully, Great American Ideas only included three adhesive hook and loop attachments, which began to lose their stickiness as they were shifted between the WASD and cursor keys, solidifying a participant’s concern. Hopefully, the company will include additional fasters, so purchasers don’t have to make any impromptu trips to the nearest Wal-Mart. Another solution would be to use AutoHotkey, a free, script-based program which allows users to redefine keys.

To compensate for any performance increase incurred by repetition, each participant played one game of Astro Tripper using only the keyboard, followed by two games with the MiniStick/Keyboard combo (using keys  to fire, change direction, and cycle through weapons) , and then one round with just the keyboard. Midway through the trial, suspicion for the stick started to wane, with the two casual players earning notably higher scores when using the device. Once the other pair of experienced players finished their games, we tallied up the overall difference in score. Unsurprisingly, the participants with the least amount of PC gaming achieved the greatest improvement in score. One unexpected incident did occur: the player with the most proficiency exhibited a worsened performance when using the mechanism. Overall, the group incurred a 22% increase in score, failing to match the MiniStick’s advertised claims.

MiniStick ReviewMoving onto Xotic, the results were similar- with scores using the stick inversely correlated to experience level. Again, the most adept participant scored lower when using the device, although this might be attributed to the gamer’s style of play; his passionate flicks and tugs unhinged the MiniStick on several occasions. Additionally, two participants experienced a snag when the gadget was attacked to the WASD keys; despite careful placement, neighboring keys would sporadically receive an accidental press. Here, the group experienced a 34% increase in score; when assessing both Astro Tripper and Xotic, the average increase was 28%, albeit coming close to the 50% mark for casual gamers.

When the participants were asked how much they’d pay for the MiniStick, three players agreed that between five and ten dollars was a fair price for the device, while the other member fervently expressed disinterest at any cost. The trio willing to purchase the MiniStick thought that the devices fasteners felt a bit too loose, with one commenting on how during play, the device’s constant hinging/unhinging “sounded like a hamster gnawing on a wood stick”.

MiniStick ReviewAlthough we were unable to duplicate Great American Idea’s performance claims, it’s evident that the MiniStick is capable of augmenting an apprentice player’s play levels. Assuming that the stick is offered for a reasonable price, the mechanism offers a makeshift remedy for gamers who suffer from WASD-phobia. Those seeking a premium solution to keyboard-free character control might consider the Razer Hydra.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert ‘DesertEagle’ Allen is Tech-Gaming’s resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

32 comments

  1. 28% percent ain’t nothing to sneeze over. So how much are they retailing for?

  2. Some should make a USB Nunchuck. That shouldn’t cost more than $15 and you don’t have to deal with velcro.

  3. This looks like a jerry-rigged POS. No on did anyone get higher scores using that.

  4. It seems like it might help, but you still have 10 other keys to press for most games. Noobs will still bet owned.

  5. This reads like a thesis project. It’s boring, bro. and the stick looks like trash. No body wants it.

  6. You should be able to superglue that thing in place on an old keyboard. That’s a quick and dirty hack anyone can do.

  7. I really couldn’t much any info about the stick other than press releases.

    When’s it coming out? How much will it cost?

    Otherwise, great in-depth study. Consumer Reports meets Nintendo Power.

  8. Ive tried the Raven, but I prefer the Logitech G13. You can get it at Newegg for $65 or so. Worth every penny, IMO.

  9. What’s so hard about pressing four keys? You had to do that on the old NES controller. I swear gamers now are crying babies.

    • Spoken like a true elitist PC gamer.

      There’s a sizable difference between a D-pad and arrow keys. Instead of using only your thumb for movement, you’re having to dance a couple of fingers on the arrow keys. This doesn’t necessarily feel natural to those who play games on consoles and can lead to frustration. PC gamers are the same way. Usually, they can’t stand dual-analog stick controls on consoles because it “doesn’t feel right” to them. Motion and touch screen controls could also be mentioned in the same manner. Different strokes for different folks.

    • Those four keys are surrounded by 30 other similar keys. That’s the problem. Keyboards were designed for typing, not playing games. Talk to me in 10 years when your wrists are killing you about the advantage of M/KB

    • Here’s the thing:

      You shouldn’t have to think about controls. Now, I know you don’t because you’re the god of gaming. But I’m not. I have a job, a wife, and mortgage meaning I have about 6 hours a week tops for gaming. Of course, some of that is spent reading about the hobby on this site and others. So, with that 3-4 hours a week, I can’t be a gaming expert and I’ll take anything that helps me out. If you think this training wheels meant for babies, I don’t care. I play for my own enjoyment, not to make others happy.

  10. Astro Tripper you can play with a controller, most games there day allow a 360 wired controller to be plugged in.

    For FPS, this device looks like it might have sense. Still, looks cheap.

    • Still there are some games (that aren’t FPS) that force you to use a keyboard. The Binding of Isaac for one. I could see this helping.

  11. Good review. How long did it take you for the whole test?

  12. Sounds and looks like crap. How are you supposed to hit the keys above the stick?

  13. If it’s 5 or 10 bucks and helps people, why are other people getting all bent out of shape over this?

  14. What is it about some PC gamers- is something is super hardcore they piss all over it and call it crap. Anything ported from console? crap. Any attempt to make games easier to play? crap!

    Hey, it looks a little piece of plastic that at least a step in the right direction. I say good for the makers.

  15. Seems like anyone who like PC gaming these days should buy an extra controller.

  16. Why do the pics just show the MiniStick on the cursor keys?

  17. I’d probably pick up up if it was less than $10. My fingers always lose their way on the keys.

  18. Where can I order one?

  19. Did you try here: http://ministickstore.com/

    I see an order button.

  20. Yeah, you can’t order one on the site which kind of sucks.

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