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To review PowerRamp, I used Hexen by Raven Software. This is a non-stop game that is perfect for testing out this kind of controller. This is also a game in which I had been using a head to head setup with a another player. We had both been using a plain keyboard for some time and I had an immediate advantage when I plugged in the PowerRamp. The arcade style grip becomes second nature in no time and allows you to think about the ensuing battle, not which keys to press. The controller comes with four macros, but I found that the first macro had almost all the functions I needed already at my fingertips. Two rows of low-profile large buttons have CTRL, A, INS, ENTER, in the first row and SHIFT, Z, DEL, and SPACE in the second row. The rubberized ball grip with a metal shaft is on the left of the controller. Other buttons include ESC, a smaller ENTER button and four FUNCTION keys. Auto-fire can also be switched on for the eight main buttons mentioned previously. One minor problem I have noticed in the grip is that it seems to use the arrow or direction keys in a fully held position. Where you would lightly tap a direction key on the keyboard for a slight movement of your character, the grip moves the character at full speed. I found this a bit of a challenge when I was trying to walk my game character around a curving precipice on the side of a cliff! You can still use your keyboard to get the fine movements down. This could also be a setting that I didn't enter properly on the PowerRamp.
Construction of the PowerRamp has been executed with the enthusiast in mind. The base is made of steel with rubber pads to hold it in place. The top of the ramp is high impact plastic and the buttons are the same style as arcade games. They are large, flat and low and they have a light click built in so you know you've pressed it. The grip is made up of a steel shaft with a rubber ball at the end. The ramp base measures roughly twelve inches in width and seven inches in length. It is rugged and has a plug in jack allowing the use of a different cable for presumably a Macintosh.
The ergonomics of this controller have been well thought out. There is an open space for your palm to rest below the four main buttons and the grip can be moved by your left thumb or fingers. There again a click set up in the grip gives a sense of feedback. The unit is comfortable to use either on a table or on your lap. I personally found the lap most comfortable as there is sufficient weight from the steel base to keep it quite steady. My only suggestion for the people at ACT would be to pad the surface below the eight main buttons. Your wrist bone will notice that it has been sitting on a hard surface after several (nearly four) hours. This may seem a bit long to be playing a game, but time does strange things during these adventure/puzzle solving games. The nice thing about the PowerRamp is that you aren't thinking about what keys to press, you are concentrating on just the game. I believe this is truly the sign of a good interface; one that allows you to forget you are using it.
Written by Jeffrey Waters
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
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