N-Control Avenger hands-onSee all photos
So, why would we want to cover our controller in snake-like tendrils and funky pulleys? Why, ease of access, of course. It may not seem apparent at first glance, but flicking the Avenger's flexible extremities toggles the attached controller's X, Y, and B buttons -- allowing players access to most of the controller's functions without abandoning the right-hand thumbstick. The backside of the Avenger features two notched lengths of rubber strung between a built-in controller stand and a pair of matching levers over the left and right triggers. This lever-pulley setup make the triggers accessible from almost any point on the rear of the controller, and can be customized to react to anything from the slightest touch, to a hearty yank.
At first this does feel a little awkward and cumbersome, but within an hour, flicking prongs and nudging levers felt natural and organic. Not only could we access game functions like reload, jump, and melee quicker, but doing it just felt better. Activating face buttons suddenly felt more like subtle gesturing and less like simple toggling. Mastering the trigger controls was a bit more challenging, but eventually we settled on a comfortable, loose tension setup. Finally, after adjusting and mastering the contraption's appendages and straps, we settled into a deep slouch, instinctively propping the controller's attached kickstand against our belt for a notably comfortable round of Bulletstorm.
The N-Control Avenger is a lot of things: it's comfortable, well designed, functional, intimidating, and above all, not to be mistaken for a crapgadget. The only thing it isn't, however, is appropriately priced. The Avenger -- a plastic shell, mind you -- rings in at $49.99. Perspective? That's enough to snag yourself a wireless Xbox 360 controller in its own right. So there's a choice -- better controls, or more controllers? Tough call. Us? We'll wait until N-Control gets the idea to ship a full-fledged third party controller that delivers both.