Wednesday, February 13, 2013

[Accessory Review] Xtendplay by Xwerx

Look, I hate to be the one to tell you this but it’s for your own good: you are diseased.

I feel perfectly healthy!  you might say.  It’s fine.  That’s everyone’s first reaction when they find out they’re GC positive.  The whole “denial is the first step on the path to acceptance” thing. 

I went through the same thing when I found out I had GC, carrying on like everything was perfect sunshine lollipops in the Land of Happy-Dappy Smilefairies, but it didn't last.  The signs were sporadic at first: a cracked knuckle here, a sore wrist there.  Then things started to build, quick.  The symptoms became impossible to ignore.  It got to the point where even seeing the boomerang-esque shape of the Xbox 360 controller caused me to fall to my knees, put my sweaty, tendonitis -infested arms to the sky and curse the cruel God who designed such an arcane device.  I couldn’t eat, sleep, bathe, Scrabble. I was a total wreck.

Now hold on, don’t get all teary-eyed and confine your 360 to a dusty prison closet just yet: I found a cure.  You just probably haven’t heard about it thanks to the massive Microsoft-financed conspiracy keeping medical professionals from recognizing the GC threat.  Don’t believe me?  Fine, then go to your doctor’s office; have her tell you that “It’s just tendonitis; take some aspirin and stop clutching your vidyagame joystick so damn much.”  But before you leave, riddle me this: what operating system is installed on her computer?  That’s right: Windows XP.  By Microsoft. The same company that made your Xbox 360 controller.  I told you this was big.

There is only one thing that will save you now: Xwerx’s XtendPlay for the Xbox 360.  Its “Soft-touch fleXlite™ shape” and “Airflow Channels” are the magic cure that “the man” doesn’t want you to know about.  We must act quickly though, because Microsoft has already struck: Xwerx has fallen and the underground resistance network has been reduced to Amazon.  So please, spend $20 (plus shipping) on a giant foam controller cushion and help me help you.  Join together with your arthritic brothers as we strike down the global Gamer’s Claw threat!  Because Gamer’s Claw is totally a thing.  Yep.  Totally a thing.

Sarcastic intros about marketing buzzwords aside, the XtendPlay pretty much does what it advertises.  It’s a big hunk of neon green foam that fits snugly on the bottom of your Xbox 360 controller, altering the stock ergonomics and supposedly providing a more comfortable gaming experience.  Since I have such ginormous sausage fingers (seriously, it’s like someone tried to reattach my severed hands but used couple of pork chops and a pack of bratwurst instead) the XtendPlay provides a more natural resting spot for my three unused digits, giving my thumbs and index fingers better positions to press buttons and whatnot.  It’s especially useful if you have FPS Freeks installed, letting your thumbs rest squarely on top of the nubs without having to shift your entire hand to do so.  The other major benefit is the large square area at the bottom, which rests on your chest/stomach and provides a stable position for the controller.  This feels much more natural than the normal positions I hold my controller in and really does help reduce arm fatigue when having a multi-hour FPSathon.  The foam is firm but comfortable and provides a nicer grip than the hard plastic wings of a stock controller.

The increase in comfort comes with several major drawbacks though.  By far the most inconvenient and perplexing flaw with the XtendPlay is its lack of a hole for headset wires.  Every time you want to chat with your buddies in Halo you have to take the damn pad off, plug in the wire and reattach it with the wire hanging garishly along the back.  And if your mic uses a puck instead of a wire?  Too bad, so sad.  Why there wasn't a piece of foam removed to eliminate this problem, I will never know.  The added controller size worked for me but anyone with normal-sized or smallish hands will find it tough to adapt to.  The “Airflow Channels” that “keep hands cool and dry” did nothing for me and served as more of a distraction when my index fingers slid into them while searching for shoulder buttons.  Although I don’t mind it, my wife thinks the neon green coloring and overall size is a total eyesore (it is, in her words, “like those pads that kids have to wear to cure clubbed feet”).  But by far the biggest drawback of the XtendPlay is its price.  $20 for any controller add-on is a tough pill to swallow, but having to pay that (plus shipping) for what amounts to a piece of foam is just too much.

While the XtendPlay worked great for me, its current incarnation has too many flaws to give an across-the-board recommendation.  People with big hands or problems with arm fatigue may get some use out of it but everyone else is better off saving their $20.

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