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Gaming

X-Arcade Trackball: Retro cool

The X-Arcade Trackball lets you relive the glory days of 80s arcade gaming, only without the cigarette burns on the cabinet and a slot to swallow all your pocket money

Many of us will remember wasting our youth in a sweaty arcade, pumping 20p's into Tempest until some hollow victory was attained in the form of a high score. So an arcade machine packed with classics such as Asteroids, Battle Command and Gravitar would be high on an 80s child's wishlist, up there with a home-cinema room and that life-sized Stormtrooper outfit.

The X-Arcade Trackball is like one of those massive panels you see in an arcade cabinet, only without a stick. We asked the guys at Gremlin Solutions to send over this portal back to arcade's golden era. There were a few cabinets that used the trackball idea for analogue control, and the X-Arcade replicates this pioneering work of 80s arcade design perfectly. It comes with a CD that contains two volumes of Atari classics, all of which work with the device. Of all the games, Asteroids feels the most suited to the trackball, although the hefty-looking device plays a good game of Tempest.

While Atari classics are all well and good, the X-Arcade is clearly meant to be used with MAME, an arcade emulator for the PC or Mac that will play most games released in the 80s and 90s. The software isn't included in the X-Arcade box but it's easy enough to get hold of -- the only problem is that the games are under copyright and therefore illegal. Crave utterly condemns such practices, of course. Mind you, that won't stop super-l33t haxx0rs unfazed by such boundaries playing with the X-Arcade stick through a special USB adaptor and using it on an Xbox version of MAME. Shockingly, the manual even suggests that you do so...

If you've not got the time for old arcade classics, downloading illegal games or Xbox hacking, then the X-Arcade is also designed to be used with games such as Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Silent Scope on the PS2. You may have seen golf games in pubs before -- usually occupied by a drunken, Burberry-uniformed idiot slamming the ball back and forwards in a horrible parody of the precision of the actual game. It can be quite fun though, with the analogue trackball allowing accurate chips and putts.

The X-Arcade isn't the next revolution in gaming, but it's solidly built, and if you're into arcade classics you might have enough fun to warrant the £70 asking price. If not, you can make a ridiculously overstated salute to 80s cool by using the X-Arcade as a replacement mouse. Keep it retro. -GC