Reviewing Australia’s cheapest Switch controller from Kmart
Over the holidays, me and my family sat down for a hair-pulling game of four-player Death Squared — a fantastic, if frustrating co-op puzzle game developed by Aussie indie developer SMG Studio. I live in a three Switch household, so getting together enough Joy-Cons and Pro Controllers was absolutely trivial, but I started thinking to myself, “What if I didn’t already have all of these controllers? What would my options be?”
Assuming all you ever bought in terms of hardware was the Switch itself, you’d only have two controllers to work with — less if a multiplayer game required the full layout rather than the SNES-like options of a single Joy-Con for each player. Buying extra Joy-Cons is expensive, at $120 a pair, and Pro Controllers aren’t much better, at around $100 a pop. At the least, to play a four-player game you’d be spending $120, but at the top end, you could be dropping up to $360 to allow four players to play with full control schemes. That’s a lot of money, more than Switch Lite and more than the cheapest sale price we’ve seen for the full-fat Switch, too. So what’s the solution? Enter Kmart.
Kmart made its, er, “triumphant” return to gaming midway through last year, after half a decade of not stocking any games, consoles, or accessories, with a range of PC gaming accessories. Cheap, LED-laden mechanical keyboards, mouses, headsets, and even speakers and soundbars hit store shelves in July, all carrying the Anko brand name — Kmart’s go-to in-house name for just about everything. Then, at the very tail end of the year, the company branched out even further, offering a wide range of Switch accessories, including Joy-Con charging docks, silicone skins, carrying cases, and the subject of today’s review: the wired “Gaming Controller for Switch.”
Coming in at just $25 a pop, the Anko controller is the cheapest Switch controller available on store shelves, beating out EB’s transparent Rock Candy controller by a good $5. Surprisingly, however, Kmart’s quirky little controller is remarkably full-featured compared to others in its price range, and even packs in features that aren’t available in third party controllers costing $60 or more. So let’s go over those features now.
The Anko wired controller for Switch is, as the name suggests, a wired controller, so you’ll have to be within plugging-distance if you want to get any use out of it. Thankfully, the cord is reasonably longish, coming in at just over 150cm — long enough if your couch is close to the TV/Switch dock (or if you’re like me and primarily play at a PC desk), but it could present an issue for larger living spaces. As for what the controller itself can do, well, that’s where things get interesting. While it is missing HD Rumble — as with all third party controllers — it does pack some standard rumble into the handles, which isn’t as overbearing and horrible as some other third party controllers on the Switch. It also, against all odds, packs in full 6-axis motion controls, and they work flawlessly. For full disclosure, I’m largely unable to use motion aiming in games due to some nerve damage, but even just messing around with it in DOOM (2016) and Splatoon 2, it’s clear to see that it’s quick and responsive, and just about on par with using a Pro Controller. I also had somebody else test it, a serious Splatoon 2 player, and they had no issues with the motion at all.
Also worth mentioning is that it’s fully compatible with PCs as well, curiously showing up in Steam as a PS3 controller. Despite that, it functions perfectly fine on a PC, with rumble available in games that support it, even if the button prompts will be a teensy bit messed up — showing PlayStation button prompts in games that support it, and Xbox prompts in games that don’t. Either way, you won’t be getting Switch button prompts unless a game specifically allows you to swap which prompts you use. A very small price to pay for something that works pretty damn well on two different devices, however. I unfortunately could not try it out on a PS3, as my old launch PS3 has long since died, but hey, if you pick up this controller and it works on a PS3, let me know; I’d absolutely love to hear about it.
But features aside, there are some quite serious downsides to this controller. It looks… fine, I guess? It certainly doesn’t have the style and grace of an official Nintendo controller, but the red and blue highlights adorning the handles and surrounding the face controls are pretty fetching at least. Instead, where it falls short, is in the atrocious build quality. Sure, there might be a dozen cool features that aren’t often seen in third party controllers, but goodness me the plastic on this thing is next level bad. It feels remarkably cheap in the hand, with flimsy, hollow-feeling plastic encapsulating everything of note and soft, squishy buttons that feel unsatisfying to press. The analogue sticks are similarly plasticky, with very little weight or substance behind them they feel like they’re prone to breaking off at any given moment.
I’m a bit of an analogue stick freak, and when I get a new controller the first thing I do in most situations is find a way to replace the stock sticks with something a little more suited to my hands. Thankfully, it seems like the Anko controller could technically have its sticks replaced, as they do pop off when the controller is disassembled, but all of the spare sticks I had on hand had an interface that was just a bit too big for the Anko’s analogue switches. Unfortunately, even replacing the sticks won’t fix every problem, as the analogue switch mechanism itself is much looser than I’d prefer. Some people prefer looser sticks, so you might be able to live with that, but me? I’d rather just pay more.
So there you have it, Australia’s cheapest retail Switch controller. After spending six hours with it in Immortals Fenyx Rising, and about two hours spread across other games, it’s a fine enough controller. It’s in a bit of a strange position, honestly, with some excellent features in what is ostensibly just a sub-par package. In a pinch, and for $25, it’ll absolutely get the job done. But you probably shouldn’t consider it a full-time solution — just something to keep around in case your younger cousins come around and you don’t want them griming up your pretty, $100 Pro Controller. At the end of the day, you very much get what you paid for.
And sure, you could get a cheapo controller from Aliexpress for under a tenner, but you’d also be waiting three months for it to arrive — if it arrives, and if it’s even the right product. Here, for $25, you can walk into a Kmart and walk out with a controller that you know is mostly going to work with your Switch, and if it doesn’t? Well, there’s always a warranty, and Kmart’s returns policy is pretty forgiving. So it might not be the cheapest controller available to Australians, but it is the cheapest readily available controller on store shelves across Australia. And sometimes, that’s good enough.