The Cruiser Powerplay Joystick
The Cruiser was, quite simply, the best joystick available in the 8-bit computer era.
Whilst many joysticks of the day like the popular Quickshot range were bulky devices with finger grips and trigger buttons, the Cruiser was a lesson in practical design and understatement. The base was rounded at the front and flat at the back. The stick protruded from the centre of the rounded section and was about 200mm high with a thin shaft and larger head. There was a collar around the base of the shaft. The flatter section of the base was adourned with two round fire buttons -- both buttons had the same effect but made the device suitable for left or right-handed play.
The cruiser was available in three colour schemes:
- Everything was black. The base, the leads and the buttons. Think of Disaster Area's stunt ship from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and you'll get the idea.
- Green base, yellow buttons, blue collar and, ahem, a pink stick.
- The body of the joystick was transparent plastic allowing you to peek
at the gubbins within. Never saw one of these for sale, but my friend had one.
This is where the cruiser came into it's own. The stick was the perfect size, allowing you to control it in any of the accepted ways. The collar on the base could be twisted to adjust the tension in the stick's movement. There were three settings: easy, medium or hard. I almost always used easy because it suited my tip-of-the-finger joystick style.
The bottom of the base featured suction cups. These were supposed to be used to attach the unit to a table or other flat object so you could use it freehand. Usually though, a better method was to hold the base in the palm of one hand with your thumb curling over to use the buttons whilst the stick is controlled using the other hand.
There was a nice audible click from the microswitches on both the stick and buttons. The unit felt solid and responsive. There was quite simply no joystick that was as comfortable to use until Nintendo bought out the N64 over a decade later.
The lead came with two plugs attached. The grey one was a Sinclair-type 9-pin D plug. This was designed to fit a Sinclair Spectrum via an Interface II. This was also compatible with the joysick ports on later Amstrad-ized Spectrums such as the +2A and +3. The black lead was a standard Atari-type 9-pin D plug. This was compatible with most 8-bit and 16-bin computers, including the Spectrum via a Kempston.
Strangely, there are two stories of the Cruiser's lastability. Some maintain that the device is invincible and that they still use ones they bought all those years ago. I, however, find myself on the other side of the fence. I regularly had to replace my cruiser, in fact it became a regular christmas present (always a black one).
The fact is, though, that this was offset by the price. The cruiser was much cheaper than it's inferior alternatives and buying a new one every now and then seemed a small price to pay for the gaming edge it gave you.