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)