Review by Kevin Steele
Update 4/21: I've added details about Treyonics' "Configurator" and Button Tester to the review, and added a note about the custom options available, including custom trackball colors.
It’s not often that you get to talk to the designer of a product when you’re doing a review of that product. It’s even less often that the designer hand-delivers the product to your door, yet that’s exactly what happened for this review.
When I initially contacted the president of Treyonics, Jim Krych, about doing a review of his company’s Devastator II MAME arcade controller, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he lived just a few minutes away from my home. We set up an in-home “appointment” and he brought over a Devastator for me to try out.
Normally, this wouldn’t be the way you receive your Devastator II. Treyonics usually ships via Mail Boxes Etc., and while their packing process is, well, thorough, the word “overkill” does comes to mind. It’s certainly not as elegant as the SlikStik’s custom-fitted foam pieces, but it most definitely gets the job done.
That’s No Moon… (Size & First Impressions)
My first impression of the Devastator? Big.
While not as large overall as the SlikStik Classic, it’s pretty close, and at 33"w x 14"d x 6.5"h the Devastator is actually taller than the SlikStik, which adds to the apparent size of the unit.
I’m convinced that a two-player arcade controller has to be this large at a minimum, or you end up smashing into your opponent in the real world rather than the cyber one. Extra kudos to Treyonics for building a control panel designed for adults.
One thing I liked about the panel design was the relatively flat front end. As much as I like the appearance of the curved front edge of the SlikStik, it does tend to interfere with my gut when I’m playing spinner or 4-way joystick games. Until I lose some weight, the straight front edge of the Devastator is more comfortable for me.
The top of the controller is a very sleek black “cabinet grade laminate,” once again very similar to the SlikStik’s formica surfaces. Unfortunately, only the top surface has the laminate, while the sides are merely painted black.
Another less-than-stylish touch was the mounting bolts that hold the top panel and the joysticks in place. While top mounted bolts may be the sturdiest mounting option, I’m not sure it’s really necessary (especially for holding the top panel in place), and it mars the overall appearance of the panel. While this doesn’t take away from the functionality of the unit, I have to deduct some “style points.”
One of the unique things about the Devastator II is the carrying handle on the back of the unit. While not a huge feature, it is a nice touch if you’re planning on hauling your controller to “MAME parties” (are there such things?) The controller even has rubber feet, so you don't scratch up your friend's coffee table. The carrying handle can be removed if you’re planning on mounting the control panel into a MAME cabinet.
The Devastator II that I examined is the current “Model C” version that is currently shipping to customers, and comes standard with two six-button player setups, with a Happs Top-fire joystick for player 1 and a Happs Competition joystick for the player 2 position. In addition, it sports a high-lip trackball and a custom spinner unit, along with single pinball buttons on the sides.
Treyonics has made some good choices when it comes to the components used – Happ Controls joysticks, buttons and trackball; a spinner with components from Oscar Controls; and everything is controlled by the new Ultimarc MiniPAC. This means that the entire panel connects to your PC with just one USB cable (a PS/2 connection is not possible on the MiniPAC when a spinner or trackball is connected).
The Devastator II uses the standard MAME key layout by default, although you can reprogram the unit if you open it up and move a jumper on the MiniPAC. Some of these key assignments I’m not too fond of (such as assigning ESC to Player 1 + Player 2), but these can be remapped in MAME without reprogramming the Devastator itself. No drivers are required to use the Devastator.
Choose Wisely (Joysticks and Buttons)
I have to question the decision to use a Happs Top-fire joystick in the player 1 position, as this the joystick you will be using 99% of the time, and the top-fire would be my last choice. A poster in the BYOAC forums recently commented that the Top-fire joystick “makes you feel like you’re playing a crane game,” a comment I agree with completely.
The top-fire is one of the least comfortable joysticks I’ve ever used, and I only have one on my cabinet for games that absolutely have to have a fire button on the joystick (Tron, Discs of Tron, Battlezone, etc.) Luckily Treyonics does offer unit customization, so you can ask to have it replaced with a Happs Super joystick, or have it moved to the player 2 position (so your opponent is the one at a disadvantage, heh...)
Speaking of customization, the six-button layout on the Devastator is adequate for most fighters and early-80’s games, but if you’re a big fan of Neo-Geo games you may want to ask Treyonics to add the 7th “Neo-Geo button," similar to the layouts on the Hot Rod, X-Arcade, and SlikStik controllers.
One unusual aspect of the buttons on the Devastator is their actual assignments, which are “upside down” compared to most controller button layouts — buttons 1, 2 and 3 are on the bottom of the set of six buttons, while buttons 4, 5, and 6 are on top:
This unique button layout is probably a matter taste, but I’m sure it will freak out many a fan of “fighter” games. For fans of games with less than four buttons, it may actually be a better choice than the typical layout used by other controller makers, as your hand never has to bump into buttons you aren’t using.
At the top of the unit are the player one and two start buttons, and coin one and two buttons. Once again, I’m not sure I like the layout, as player two and player one are sure to bump arms as player one tries to push his coin button while player two tries to push his start button (or vice versa). Moving these buttons outward, grouping them in Coin/Start pairs, and adding an extra pair of player buttons up by the spinner would be a nice touch, as would adding a pause button.
Treyonics has a nice Flash-based button tester for the Devastator, always a handy utility to have for troubleshooting. I like the introduction to the button tester on their site: "Your buttons work. You already know this. However, if you run into a shadow of doubt because your favorite MAME game is acting funky, this little flash app will reveal what you already know--your buttons work."
Riding High (Trackball)
The trackball used in the Devastator is a “high lip” trackball, meaning that the ball itself sits much higher in the trackball unit, and provides the user with more surface area to grab. This makes the ball look “bigger” in the control panel — this is the type of trackball that is used in Golden Tee arcade cabinets. I liked the feel of this ball, and felt it allowed for more fine control in games such as Centipede.
The spinner is a bit close to the trackball, so you may bump it when "flicking" the trackball forward, something you'll encounter in games such as Golden Tee or World Championship Bowling.
The “standard mount” vs. “high lip” trackball setup is a tough one for me to give a recommendation on, as it really boils down to personal preference. I didn’t have enough time with the Devastator unit to really form a solid opinion of my own (although my first impression is very positive) and I can see good and bad points to both trackball styles. More kudos to Treyonics for including something that no other vendor offers.
The ball itself on the default configuration is a plain white one, but Treyonics does offer other ball colors, including translucent balls.