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WWE All Stars BrawlStick [Review]

Overall Feeling: 

The WWE All Stars BrawlStick from Mad Catz may not allow gamers to customize their button layouts or insert new faceplates, but what it does offer is a well-rounded arcade stick that is comfortable and highly responsive.  Don’t let the obvious product tie-in fool you into thinking the BrawlStick is only good when playing WWE All Stars. While playing THQ’s new arcade wrestling game with the BrawlStick is fun and responsive, the BrawlStick manages to be as good with faster paced games like Mortal Kombat.  For the gamers out there looking for an arcade stick that’s affordable and shows your WWE pride, the BrawlStick is definitely the way to go.

The Pros: 

+ The price point is terrific given the build and overall quality of the arcade stick.
+ Both the joystick and the buttons feel really responsive and are perfect to smash upon during intense fights.
+ The WWE art featured on the stick looks good and is tastefully done.
+ Thankfully the USB chord for the BrawlStick is long so it’s easy to sit at a nice distance away from the TV/console.

The Cons: 

- I would’ve liked if there was a bit more spacing in between the buttons. Rating : 

A lot of you out there know by now that I’m a huge arcade gamer.  Not only do I love arcade style video games like the Burnout franchise, but I also love arcade gaming as a whole. A lot of my early years gaming were spent at local arcades around the Chicago land area and I guess playing games like Terminator 2, Virtua Fighter and Revolution X (yes, I will admit to playing that and loving the hell out of it) has influenced my gaming sensibilities today.

When I can, I try to bring the arcade gaming experience into my console gaming but honestly I haven’t had that much success. I’m of course referring to special peripherals like light guns or arcade sticks for games like Mortal Kombat.  Things haven’t been too bad on the light gun area for me since Namco has done an admirable job of building solid peripherals for the console versions of Time Crisis, but I’ve always found myself in a pit when it comes to arcade sticks.  But after years of waiting for an arcade stick that wasn’t complete garbage I think I may have finally found something that not only fits my need as a gamer but fulfills my fandom as a wrestling fan with the WWE BrawlStick from Mad Catz.

Wrestling games in general have never really lent themselves to an arcade stick experience, but THQ’s new arcade action game WWE All Stars is a game that really lends itself to be played with an arcade stick thus we have a snazzy new peripheral from Mad Catz.  The WWE All Star BrawlStick may be for a modern arcade centric fighting game and not something “traditional” like Street Fighter IV or Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but that doesn’t mean it’s anything less than pure quality in just about every way.

For all the hardcore arcade gamers out there, the BrawlStick may not offer an immediate level of customization like other arcade pads out there, but it still works incredibly well given what it offers. Featuring a lollipop style arcade stick and convex buttons, the arcade pad feels just right when gaming, even if it may be in “mini” form.  The BrawlStick doesn’t take up a massive amount of space as it measures in around 12 inches in length, which to some that may either be a good or bad thing depending on how much space you generally like to have.  Personally, I found the arcade stick to be right on the money in terms of how big it is and that’s saying a lot since I’m about three steps away from having Andre the Giant hands.

The arcade stick and buttons are responsive and felt rather good when I was smashing away trying to perform a Rock Bottom in WWE All Stars or perform a brutal tag team combo in Mortal Kombat. Yes, just like all good products the WWE All Star BrawlStick can be used with other fighting games, though the exact mileage you’ll get with the arcade pad depends on just how hardcore you are with the game in question.  The button layouts of the BrawlStick may be an issue for some as they’re neither in the traditional Street Fighter or MK patterns. Obviously such a thing is to be expected and instead the buttons are just laid out in a four on four pattern with the Cross and Square buttons being slightly lower than the rest.    If there’s one issue I had with the otherwise terrific product that is the BrawlStick, it’s that I found the buttons were a bit too close to one another.  I did find it easy at times to know which button was which and that subsequently paid off in me having some of the best matches I’ve had in fighting games when compared to using a standard controller, but at the same time there were a few occasions when muscle memory would go to trash and I would press R2 instead of R1 merely because they’re really close to one another.  But honestly, occurrences like accidentally pressing buttons was a minor thing but for people who are playing a game with an arcade stick for the first time it may be a bigger problem than people who have been doing such a thing for nearly fifteen years.

The overall design and durability of the BrawlStick is one thing that surprised me the most. I already knew that Mad Catz was a company that knew their stuff when it comes to creating arcade sticks and our very own Casey White loves the Street Fighter IV Tournament Arcade Stick he got last year. But with a smaller size and a smaller price point, I wondered if there would be a lapse in immediate quality of how the BrawlStick would feel and how it would be engineered.  After being jipped in the past by arcade sticks that either broke easily or were made out of materials that were less than durable, I was overwhelmed by how good the BrawlStick is.  With a body that consists of very durable plastic and an almost metal like bottom, the BrawlStick is nothing but pure perfection in how it feels. Never once did I feel like I had to tone things down while playing in respect to how fast or hard I was smashing on the buttons due to the fear of them breaking.  Sure, the BrawlStick has a very loud sound when pushing the arcade stick and buttons, but to me hearing the clicky clack of the buttons is just classic arcade gaming at its finest.  The surface of the Brawl Stick is perfectly smooth and there’s even a nice angle on the surface right where the bottom of your palm would rest for optimum comfortability.

Of course the biggest thing about the BrawlStick and what sets it apart from other sticks on the market is the art of The Rock and Triple H.   With prominent placement where the face buttons are located, it’s hard not to look down and see the People’s Eyebrow staring right back at you or seeing the gnarly looking Triple H before he became a backstage only dude.  The art itself is taken directly from WWE All Stars so it’s completely accurate instead of being a case of a “stylized” portrayal that honestly looks like a bad piece of art found on a bad deviantArt profile.

As a product for gamers who love arcade action, the WWE BrawlStick is a solid investment in my book.  For only $79 gamers can get something that not only is good to play with in arcade games, but also shows off their WWE fandom by featuring some nice art of two iconic wrestlers.  The BrawlStick isn’t wireless but having a 13ft cord certainly helps in making things be comfortable when kicking butt in WWE All Stars or even Mortal Kombat.  The BrawlStick may not be the optimum arcade pad for tournament level competitions, even if they’re of the basement variety, but it’s genuinely a nice pad and as an arcade gamer I’m thoroughly happy that such a thing been bestowed upon us.