KidzPLAY PS3 Wireless Gamepad

It’s not curtains for the PS3 yet. With its strong lineup of titles and refined form-factor it’s still as viable a console choice as any other- and the many die-hard console fans turning to the PS4 will see it become even more reasonably priced over the next year as its popularity begins to wind down.

This is good for gamers, and the latest slim PS3 is already a pretty good value proposition at £150. It only comes with one controller, however, and it’s by no means child-friendly. If you’re thinking of getting your little one(s) into the world of gaming on a budget then KidzPLAY think they have the solution.

The KidzPLAY ( I have to correct myself every time I type “Kids” here ) PS3 Wireless “Adventure” gamepad seeks to give younger gamers a specifically-designed, comfortable and visually appropriate controller. It’s almost guaranteed, then, that it will be friendlier on their thumbs than the possibly-the-worst-controller-ever-conceived Dual Shock that the PS3 is sold with.

The KidsPLAY achieves its child-friendly-ergonomics by taking a drastically different and very alien approach to controller design than what you might be used to.

Two of the shoulder buttons, R1 and L1, are underneath the controller rather than on the top edge, the D-PAD seems somewhat awkwardly placed on the top left, and the face buttons are placed in an arc underneath the right analogue stick. The start, select and PS button are located along the top edge of the controller. Overall its a perplexing and confusing layout for anyone who is used to a Playstation controller, but not so for the untrained hands of a young gaming luddite.

While I found the controller slightly frustrating to use at first, I even quickly got used to using it ( I’ll explain why I even used it at all in a moment ). My daughter, on the other hand, seemed to have absolutely no trouble with it at all and was quickly playing Dungeon Defenders as efficiently as ever
With the exception of the underside shoulder buttons which I needed to point out the location of.

However, this placement really does make sense; In most games the roles of R1 and L1 are significantly underplayed, with layouts favouring the larger and more comfortably placed R2 and L2. Moving the other buttons out of the way to a locate befitting their frequency of use, actually makes the controller easier for a child to use. And they’re really not hard to press on the odd occasion when you need to press them; accessing the menus in Dungeon Defenders for example.

The same applies to the D-Pad, which isn’t often used and is typically assigned functions a child isn’t exactly going to understand anyway, and the Start, Select and PS button which all parent gamers will have come to loathe from the number of times they’re accidentally pressed.

The face buttons are placed directly under the right analogue stick, and thus are really easy to press without having to reposition little hands- even I found them sensibly placed once I got used to the very atypical Square, Cross, Circle, Triangle layout- yes, I’ve even memorised it! ( promise I didn’t peek! )

Basically, if you think it through logically the KidzPLAY layout makes a lot of sense for a kids controller, and if you judge it in how good it feels in your own hands, you’re doing it a great injustice!

The controller comes with a dongle which needs plugging into the PS3 in order for it to work wirelessly. I ended up using the KidzPLAY for a while because of its dongle arrangement and because I didn’t bother reassigning the controller from 1 to 2 when playing single player. The dongle is a bit of a pain since it uses up a USB port and protrudes somewhat from the front of the PS3. It’s a necessary evil, though, since I don’t believe Sony license their wireless protocol to third parties.

Another minor irritation is the requirement for AAA batteries. I dislike these because I almost never have any to hand, and never have any charged. This is probably more my own failing than that of the controller, but it’s definitely a pain that it requires three of them! With most packs of batteries coming in multiples of 4, and most chargers taking 4 at a time, 3 is a somewhat awkward quantity, but I imagine it’s got more to do with the voltage required within the controller than a sadistic attempt by the controller designer to frustrate users.

In reality, the battery requirements aren’t that big a deal, but I haven’t wasted words bringing them up; the KidsPLAY boasts a good 40 hours play time on a triplet of triple As. That’s not a lot of play time for an addicted marathon gamer, but it’s an age for a kid! You will also need a screwdriver to open the battery compartment, but this is probably a safety thing to keep those small batteries from being accidentally ingested!

The controller also boasts an anti-microbial coating, which I’ve got no way to verify! And parent will know that it’s not microbes you worry about on a controller so much as chocolate, tomato ketchup and other grime. Frankly, I don’t care if it prevents bacteria getting a purchase since a little exposure is a good thing anyway! But what’s great about the KidzPLAY is that it keeps the grime off the adults controllers!

Overall this is a great product, and I couldn’t recommend it more as part of a PS3 Christmas gift for a 4+ year old. To summarise it has a less confusing layout with less commonly used buttons move out of the way, offers less chance of accidental pause button presses and is more comfortably shaped for little hands. Oh and it keeps the grime and grunge off the official controllers!

I also took the chance to play the Rayman Legends demo with my daughter, and I don’t think anything has so clearly verified that the PS3 still has a number of years in it as an affordable family console… It was nothing short of jaw dropping!

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