Along with this new-and-antiquated system they released the ProLine joystick. A definite improvement over the Atari 5200 floppy analogue abomination, the ProLine was comfortable and accurate. Comfortable, that is, if you liked hand cramps. The base of the stick is long and narrow, far too narrow for most adult hands, and after a few minutes of playing your hand will cramp up crab-claw style.
Despite this, it's very accurate, with a subtle tactile response and a very short throw. It feels comfortable for both left- and right-handed players, though both will need time to become acclimated to the crab-claw grip. It's a great joystick for
The fire buttons are also garbage: they wobble in their socket, have very little movement when pressed, and have almost no tactile response. You mash and you mash and your thumb gets sore and your hand starts to cramp and you start thinking "Fuck, why do I like this stick again?" And then you play PacMan, and it all becomes clear.
They should have called it the Atari Maze Game Stick.
The second fire button uses the same connector pin as the first, but uses a resistor so the console can tell which is pressed. This is ignored on other Atari systems, and it responds like a one-button controller on the 2600, 800-series and the ST. It completely freaks out the MegaST however, which suffers all kinds of weird, intermittent keyboard failures.
The mechanism is surprisingly solid, and it suffers an incredible amount of abuse. It uses a metal shaft, and a metal half-sphere fulcrum in a plastic cup. Interestingly, it uses the same switch mechanisms as the Atari 2600 stick: little metal mushrooms taped to a PCB. Also strangely, the mushrooms are upside down, on the bottom of the PCB when the stick is held normally.
-- Strengths and Weaknesses
It's durable, you can bash the shit out of it and never worry. It's light and, most of the time, comfortable. It's not expensive, not rare, and with no encoder, very moddable.