You need controllers to play video games. Whether they’re wand-waving Wii remotes or Atari’s Pong paddles, you generally need something to interact with them – for the pedants at the back, yes I know about Before Your Eyes and that whole Kinect phase that Microsoft went through. PowerA has been making a name for themselves for a number of years with solidly built peripherals of all sizes, shapes, and platforms, and they’ve recently been applying their knowhow to licensed controllers to tie in with the latest games. Amongst their recent batch of wired Xbox controllers sits the vibrant Tiny Tina’s Wonderland edition, and we put it through its paces on the TSA workbench.
The PowerA Enhanced Wired controller comes in many flavours, but all of them follow the broad design template of the official Xbox Series X|S controller. That means you’re getting asymmetric analogue sticks – as nature intended – the four standard face buttons, and then another batch for Menu, Share, and Options as Microsoft like to call the silly three line and double box ones. In a slight difference from the official controller there’s a classic cross-shaped D-pad rather than a circular one, which, depending on your preference may actually be a better fit. It feels sturdy and precise in use which was especially useful hopping through menus and the like.
That’s not all though. When PowerA call a controller enhanced, they really mean it, and there’s a batch of extra inputs to make your gaming even more intuitive. You’ve got direct audio controls for a start, the toggle for this nestling at the bottom of the controller. If you’re using a wired headset via the 3.5mm connection you can use the toggle to increase or decrease the volume, while pushing it in will mute your microphone. It’s a handy addition and one that saves you from messing with the controls on your headset, or having to hop into the Xbox menus.
There’s also two programmable buttons on the underside of the controller, which you can assign with relative ease on-the-fly. To do this, you press the ‘secret’ button that’s tucked away on the rear, before tapping the button you want to duplicate and then your chosen programmable button in sequence. It’s not the most advanced system you’ll find – there’s no combination button presses, for example – but it is quick enough to suit hopping from one game to another.
The Enhanced Wired Controller is considerably lighter than its official brethren, and that may be a positive or a negative depending on your tastes. I do prefer the more premium feeling heft of the official controller, but equally I found that the Enhanced Wired Controller was comfortable to use for hours and hours of Monster Hunter Rise with it hooked up on PC. There is a mild sense that it’s a cheaper controller due to the lack of weight and subtly more plastic feeling build but… it is. Even so, the build quality is very solid though, despite the reduction in weight.
The analogue sticks are taut and precise, with a pleasing amount of feedback beneath your thumbs. These feel extremely close to the official controller’s, which is a pleasant surprise. The main face buttons are also a close approximation too, and held up to hours of pummelling through Monster Hunter Rise and Minecraft Dungeons.
The difference becomes apparent in the shoulder buttons and the triggers though, and while they’re thoroughly efficient, you can tell there’s been savings made on the materials PowerA have used. Both of the shoulder buttons make a very clear and distinct clicking sound when they’re pressed in, and if you’re playing a shooter you, or at the very least the people around you, might become pretty annoyed by it. Then again, Microsoft’s own gamepads have tended toward noisy clickiness over the past decade. If you regularly play with headphones then you’ll escape, but your family and friends won’t.
The PowerA Enhanced Controller is most likely going to be a cost-effective addition to a setup rather than a replacement, and as a designated Player 2 controller for multiplayer it’s a great choice. We played a bunch of Minecraft Dungeons as a family, and it fit the bill perfectly. Even better, as a wired option there’s no need to worry about batteries or charging, so it’s ready to go whenever it’s called upon. It helped that the design was so eye-catching that it was a popular choice with my kids, rather than the ostracised ‘cheap’ third-party option. The part of me that hates to see pricey things get broken was rather happy about this.