There’s something to be said for wacky products. Usually they’re weird for the sake of being weird, to garner media attention towards other company products. But the N-Control Avenger is the exact opposite: it’s wacky because that’s how it works best.

The Avenger, as we wrote about a few months back, is an on-the-controller overlay that is designed to make pressing all of the so called intrusive buttons easier to press. That octopus design is actually much, much cleaner than the original build that it’s creator, soon-to-be-former art teacher David Kotkin made (see below). The New Yorker, who had a student with a hand defect which caused his hands to be too small, confided in Kotkin that it made life awful, that he couldn’t even play videogames. Thus, the birth of Avenger.

In theory, the Avenger sounds stupid. It sounds like Microsoft, and for that matter most if not all gamepad makers are doing a poor job at making videogame controllers. The Avenger is a product which seems to say that it’s all wrong. But in practice, the company may be on to something. I played several matches of Black Ops with the Avenger, and I was pleasantly surprised. As much as a mutated octopus as it looks like, the Avenger works pretty darned well.

How it works is simple: leverage. No, not the TV show, think back to physics. Using a system of levers that sit over the face buttons (all but the A button, because as Kotkin told me, it’s not as widely used in FPS games as the rest and is very easy to reach), players can use fingers other than their thumbs to pull on the lever with minimal force to press them. It takes almost no effort to press any of the buttons using a lever. All of the levers are fully adjustable.

Then on the back are two rubberized straps for the triggers, which allows gamers to pull the strings instead of the lever. This means there’s no need to switch between a bumper and trigger, and instead the triggers can be pulled with the middle finger in the back. The straps also allow for faster trigger presses because of a plastic slab that sits over the trigger and pushes it closer to it’s firing point.

It works. It really does. It may not look like much, but the Avenger doesn’t make the controller heavier, I didn’t need more than a minute to adjust to using the lever system, and I was able to shoot much faster. With a few more adjustments to fit my style, I was suddenly reloading faster, switching weapons with my left index finger, and never taking my hand off either analog stick. The Avenger works.

We’ll get one in for further gameplay testing, but it’s clear why Kotkin believes in the product so much. The idea is to make gaming as seamless as possible, which means making the controls in sync with gamers. If you have to worry about how hard to press a button or moving your finger faster enough, then the controller has failed. With Avenger, that can all be adjusted to your liking, and if it works out, it may just make gaming, on the Xbox 360 at least, a whole lot better.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.