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The Chameleon X-1 by Shogun Bros. adds a whole new dimension to PC gaming… …on the few games that support it.

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The mouse is more than just that – it’s also a remote control and most notably a gamepad. While the top half looks inconspicuously like an ordinary wireless mouse (with a few little alterations that we’ll touch on later), the underside of the mouse tucks away a cleverly hidden gaming controller that doubles as the wireless presenter/remote control device.

First off, as a mouse, the X-1 was pretty standard with its 2.4GHz wireless connection to the PC via a tiny USB dongle (that can be stored safely away inside the battery compartment when not used), and even though it weighs only 115g without a battery there is still a comfortable weightiness on the backend that makes it a smooth glider around a mouse pad. Unlike the standard mouse, the buttons to go back and forward when you’re web browsing and the increase/decrease mouse sensitivity buttons are on the right pinky-side of the mouse rather than next to the thumb. If you hate those buttons then you’re in luck, but for all us normal folk it’s one hell of an awkward feature to get used to.

The positioning makes sense when you start using the gamepad though, where they double up as the trigger keys (R1, L1, R2, L2 for PS3 users, R, L, RT, LT for Xbox users). The gamepad features dual joysticks made of a tactile, serrated rubber with a slight indent at around 1.5cm wide with a firm level of resistance that make them extremely fluid and comfortable to use. It also sports a directional pad with buttons that are a spaced a little too far apart for comfort’s sake, as well X, Y, A, B keys, Start and Select as well as two little non-descript buttons in the middle which feel like a poorly executed afterthought, being housed in holes too deep to be pressed into without effort.

 
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Holding the Start key for four seconds activates the gamepad (which you can test in Control Panel>Hardware>Devices) with no need for any drivers. The problem here is finding a game that it’ll work on. Most racing games like Need for Speed and Race Driver GRID will work fine with the controller, and there’s nothing better than substituting WASD for a joystick to steer (except perhaps a racing wheel, of course). Otherwise, many FPS games (even those that have gamepad control settings) don’t want to co-operate with the X-1, like Battlefield: Bad Company 2, for instance.

The feel of the controller is a little bit off-putting at first, though you do get used to wrapping your fingers around the rounded backend of the gamepad. There will be a lot of fidgeting to get it to sit right, but the clever addition of having lockable mouse-click keys gets rid of any irritating accidental clicks, and cutaways next to the D-pad and XYAB keys make thumb control a breeze.

Force feedback is also offered when you install the driver on the CD that comes with the mouse. The force feedback will only work with games that support the function, though some games like race Driver GRID will support the mouse while not supporting its vibration function even though it is part of the game’s settings.  The guys over at Shogun Bros. say games like the Need for Speed series, Tomb Raider (because who doesn’t play Tomb Raider nowadays, right…) and other sporting titles support the controller well. Unfortunately, all the games (including the likes of Fallout, GRID and Bad Company for a bit of variety) I tested didn’t fair very well.

 
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Holding Select for four seconds will put the mouse into remote control/media controller/presentation mode that’ll give your mouse the function that nobody really cares about. Go back and forward in PowerPoint slides, go next track and back track in Media Player. It’s riveting stuff, really.

This mouse has the ‘made in China’ feel to it when you first take it out of the plastic with its light frame and hollow-click-sounding buttons and cringe-worthy snapping plastic noise when you open and close the battery compartment (that also houses a port for charging rechargeable AA batteries, I should add), but after a bit of use you come to appreciate the smooth yet subtle tactile coating and simple, hand-moulded shape. The X-1 is a cheap option for a mouse in general, while giving the added bonus of a gamepad that will rival a keyboard for anyone who’s more into consoles than PC gaming – if you can find a game that’ll run it.

The Chameleon X-1 will retail at $60 once it hits Australia. Shogun Bros. is currently on the lookout for a local distributor, so until they find one you’ve got to wait.

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