Take one look at the Powerplay Cruiser and you might think this article is a wind-up. It’s sporting more shades of pastel than Gloria Hunniford’s wardrobe, and it looks like the kind of hardware you might pick up in Ann Summers, not Game. Don’t be so shallow: the Powerplay Cruiser is simply the greatest joystick ever made – despite scandalously failing to make even the top ten in The Guardian’s rundown.
The first thing to say in praise of the Cruiser is it wasn’t racist. While many of the joysticks of its generation were staunchly right wing, forcing you to waggle with your right hand and fire with your left, the Cruiser was perfectly ambidextrous. It had a button ready for either thumb. You come as you are.
And if some of you teenagers are gawping at the photo above, wondering if the X, Y, LB, RB, trigger and coffee-with-one-sugar buttons are all hidden on the underside, this joystick was born in an era where one button was plenty. You want to lob a ball down the wing rather than drill a pass along the turf in Sensible Soccer? Then yank the joystick back before you hit the pass, pal. There’s no dedicated button to do it for you.
Neither did the Cruiser discriminate when it came to brute strength. That blue dial buried beneath the cable in the picture? That allowed you to adjust the torque (or stiffness) of the stick. Limp-wristed Lionels or Nandrolone-guzzling body builders: come one, come all, the Cruiser doesn’t judge you.
Taking its punishment
Like your nan’s bread pudding, the Cruiser was also built to last. It was fully microswitched, so unlike other pretenders of the time, it didn’t stop turning left if you waggled too strenuously during a Daley Thompson’s Decathlon session. The back bedroom of my mate’s house probably still bears the damaged brickwork where he smashed the joystick into the wall after getting shot down in Silkworm. The Cruiser blew off the dust and carried on.
And if you wanted the Cruiser suckered to the desk, it stayed suckered. Once you’d licked the suction cups and slapped it on the computer desk, you’d need a crowbar and your dad’s mate Biffer to wrench it off. When they excavate landfill sites in a hundred years’ time, archaeologists will conclude that MFI used to solder Cruisers to their computer desks, because so many of them will still be clinging on like limpets.
As for those looks? Firstly, you have to remember the Cruiser launched in the mid-80s, when you could walk down Romford High Street in those colours and still not get stabbed. But maintaining its open-door policy, the Powerplay Cruiser had an all-black alternative for the traditionalists and a completely transparent model for those who find any hint of colour offensive.
The Cruiser was the joystick of the Amiga generation. Left or right, hard or soft, garish or dull, the Cruiser catered for all and it would still be working now if you got your computer out the loft. I guarantee it.
(Main picture credit: Steveinuk99)
I was more the generation before (C64) but I found the Cruiser to be a bit stiff. Tough as boots but stiff. My joystick of choice was the Quickshot. Broke very easily and used basic bubble switches, instead of the microswitches of the Cruiser, but that was my joystick king.
Didn’t you twiddle the blue dial to position 1? It became as flimsy as a sheet of A4 in a hurricane on that setting!
That’s what I was doing wrong all those years 😉
Yes, I know what you mean and I don’t mean that bit being stiff. I meant the overall joystick needing a bit more force – microswitches vs bubble switches.
My Cruiser was in a clear case which was very cool. The one in your picture was dug up from the looks of it 😉
I had a black one of these and I LOVED it. Best joystick ever? Hell yes
I concur. I went through a few if these but I would still rate them as durable. The easy to hold, wide, long, slim base, all over grippy finish and exact micro switch response set it apart from all others.
I know it’s an old post, but interesting, and I wanted to ask the author if he’s ever heard, or played with, a seemingly unknown-outside-of-Italy joystick: Albatros
These were mostly coming in black mold with red stick and buttons. They were inspired by arcade sticks although you had the long, skinny stick for precision and the shorter, chunkier one with a big ball very much like the proper arcade ones, fully microswitched, incredibly responsive and precise, left and right button, and a “rapid-fire” model too. These were truly professional gaming stuff, and very solid despite the looks… although probably not as solid as the cruisers look, but all 3 of them I had have survived without issues since 1987 and I still use them on my Amigas and C64, despite playing olympic, summer and winter games videogames for years. So, if you EVER come across one of those, do yourself a favour and try it!
On a side note, I’m getting a second hand, for-parts-only Cruiser and attempt to fix it in a few days, as I was too curious and had to try one.
Odd you should mention that Progettocrema, I’m thinking of buying one and destroying it with fire! Best thing to ever happen to a cruiser is for it to break, God awful stick! You have a choice between the stick feeling hardly connected to the base or rigor mortis which would put an original VCS stick to shame! I never owned one, but worked in a computer shop which sold plenty, mainly to young kids for the colour scheme, and one or two black and clears to gamers with no sense of touch! Never got any returns on them, although I am not convinced that wasn’t just because of the same of walking around in public with one 🙂 Zipstick or Competition Pro all the way, even a speedking over the cruiser…hell, even a glued back together Quickshot II over a cruiser!