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Groovy Game Gear OMNI-Stik Prodigy

The Groovy Game Gear OMNI-Stik Prodigy Joystick

For the longest time, there were no truly switchable joysticks on the market. Sure, you could open up your cabinet and move an actuator, or you could use special metal frames that attached control panel to limit movement, but neither of these was really elegant or easy to use.

Then Groovy Game Game gear announced their OMNI-Stik Prodigy, followed shortly thereafter by Ultimarc's T-Stik Plus. Both joysticks provide easy 4/8-way switching, but they've both taken dramatically different paths to the same destination.


The Groovy Game Gear OMNI-Stik Prodigy Joystick

Based on a Suzo mechanism, the OMNI-Stik Prodigy is unlike any other joystick on the market. It comes with an integrated mounting plate, meaning it does not have the "plastic ring" that other joysticks use to cover the hole they are mounted in. This base plate also integrates the switching mechanism, a lever which you slide left for 4-way operation, and right for 8-way operation. The operation is smooth and simple.


The OMNI-Stik's Switching Mechanism

Because of the integrated mounting plate and heavy-duty switching lever, this joystick is a tank. It is a large, sturdy, imposing piece of gaming equipment, which turns out to be surprisingly quick and responsive as a joystick.


Click the "Play" button to view the OMNI-Stik 4/8-way Switch In Action

Click here to launch the Switching video in a separate window

Installation

The OMNI-Stik Prodigy is one of the most difficult joysticks in the roundup to install. Because of the integrated plate, it requires you to cut a hole approximately 4.25" square in the control panel. If you want to flush-mount it, you'll also need to route out an area for the mounting plate. On the plus side the integrated mounting plate means you don't have to disassemble the joystick to install it (and I hate those e-clips!).


The OMNI-Stik, Installed (Not flush-mounted)

The extra installation effort can be worth it, as the "diskless" joystick mount design truly does look great, and the installed joystick is extremely sturdy. I have concerns about the laminate on the mounting plate working loose at the edges over time, but it wouldn't be an issue with a flush mounted OMNI-Stik.


The underside of the installed OMNI-Stik Prodigy

Feel

Like the T-Stik, the OMNI-Stik Prodigy is a "short-throw" joystick, meaning that the range of motion is much less than a typical joystick. The Prodigy is even more of a short throw than the T-Stik — it engages at about 3-4 degrees, with a maximum travel of 5°. Remember that the Happs Competition joystick has a travel range of 15 degrees.

Also like the T-Stik, the OMNI-Stik Prodigy only engages about 1 degree before the end of the range of motion. This, combined with the short travel, produces a sensation which can throw off gamers accustomed to the relatively generous range of motion of Happ joysticks, which engage roughly half-way through their range. A short-throw joystick is an aquired taste, but it certainly is responsive and easy to control.


Side Profile Shot of the OMNI-Stik

The OMNI-Stik Prodigy definitely provides an extremely precise feel, although the restrictor inside the joystick produces decidedly "square" motion — with the restrictor in 4-way mode, you have a "diamond" shaped area to move the joystick in, while in 8-way mode the area is square. You don't get a smooth round movement, but the square range of motion does help when trying to find diagonals.

Sound and Size

I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet the OMNI-Stik is, especially for a microswitch-based joystick. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the OMNI-Stik Prodigy is the quietest microswitch joystick I've tested. There's still some clickiness (at a slightly higher pitch than the Happs microswitches), but it's very quiet.

The video below shows OMNI-Stik Prodigy compared to a Happs Competition joystick and the Ultimarc T-Stik Plus:


Click the "Play" button to the sound and motion comparison video

Click here to launch the sound and motion comparison in a separate window

The OMNI-Stik is a tall joystick, at 3.25". The ball top part of the shaft is 1.5" wide. The shaft has a unique "taper" to it, which gives the OMNI-Stik a unique and distinctive look.

Gameplay

The OMNI-Stik Prodigy is a great joystick for fast, quick direction changes. A tall joystick combined with a short throw means that it takes very little movement to activate this joystick. Combine the short throw with a light pressure and this is defintely a "twitch" joystick. It's fast and precise, but requires a careful hand to control.

It has an exceptionally generous diagonal range, and combined with the very clearly defined "square" area of motion, means that this joystick was made for diagonals. It is very easy to hit diagonals with the OMNI-Stik, almost at the expense of U/D/L/R motions (but that's what the 4/8-way switch is there for, right?)

Joystick Stats

The following chart lists the joystick test results, current as of this review. The chart will continue to fill in with data as the "Joystick Roundup" continues.

Click to see the Joystick Comparison Chart
Click Here to See the RetroBlast Joystick Roundup Chart

Conclusions

This is not another "me too" joystick. It brings to the table a very unique and different design. The switching mechanism is solid and reliable, and may be a better choice for cabinets where you want people to know they can switch joystick modes (If guests can see the switch, they can use switch ;-)

Like the T-Stik Plus, the OMNI-Stik Pro may be an "acquired taste," but it is defintely a joystick that you can grow to love. It is well engineered and designed, and just plain built like a tank. In the end, there are now two excellent switching joysticks out there — which one you choose depends on your cab design and personal preference, but you can't go wrong with either one.

Special thanks to Randy Turner at Groovy Game Gear for providing the OMNI-Stik Prodigy used in this review.

Groovy Game Gear OMNI-Stik Prodigy Home Page

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