Inspired uses of a controller interface

In today’s multiplatform world, video game controllers have become largely homogenous to one another and attention is at a premium. As a result, control schemes are almost expected to conform to established standards.

In the past - by and large - developers were often mixing things up greatly between games on both the same format, but also within the same genre or series. What instances of game design did you find to be a perfect fit for their respective input device?

Here’s a few picks to start:

Tokyo Bus Guide 2 This may well be the best use of the DualShock 2’s analogue buttons I’ve encountered to date. The hulk of a bus you drive - professionally - is superbly suited to the pressure plates beneath the L1 and R1 button used for braking and accelerating. In order to avoid startling passengers you’ll need to accelerate and brake smoothly, and the way the developers have fine-tuned the use of the analogue buttons with the changing momentum of your bus is nigh-on perfect. It really does feel like you’re squeezing the brakes to control how fast you come to a stop.

Trauma Center: Second Opinion Atlus’s designers put switching operating theatre tools on the nunchuk’s analogue stick. Each of the eight tools are set to a direction on the octo-gate surrounding the stick, and it’s just such an accurate and tactile way to switch tools on the fly, especially when they become muscle memory. I think this is more of an achievement than the game’s expert use of the IR pointer.

Rhythm Tengoku/Rhythm Heaven Wii The Wii remote’s A and B buttons are used interchangeably for different actions in each rhythm game - all of which are playable with one hand in a freeform motion. The best is the ‘pinching’ motion that pressing both A and B together simulates. This is hugely satisfying to pull off each time, when performing actions like plucking the chin hairs off an onion, or catching food between your two hands.. These minigames later made it to 3DS but the motions don’t translate nearly as well to adjacent A and B face buttons.

Double Dragon II: The Revenge The B button handles left attacks, the A button handles right attacks - fighting no longer about choosing between punching and kicking but what direction you’re attacking in relative to where you’re facing.

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Great examples!

I never tried Rhythm Heaven, but that does sound like rather satisfying fun.

I quite liked the pressure sensitive controls in Metal Gear Solid 3 for PS2. The close quarters combat changed with finger pressure on the R and L triggers, where more pressure resulted in death, rather than unconsciousness for your victim.

They really nailed it with Rhythm Heaven for Wii, it has that arcade-style feel due to how tactile the Wii remote is with that game. You can swing it to the beat and it only ever uses A, B, or A+B, but they all suit the motions superbly. Makes you do crazy stuff like play the game with your back to the TV because the visuals suddenly become less involved than the controls and audio!

I’d forgotten about the CQC in MGS3!!! That game really used the feature to great effect to add a layer of mastery to the simplest actions - which were clearly important actions since you do them throughout the game. Also liked how you shot your weapon on the release of a button, and how the pressure sensitive buttons were used for aiming.