The Steam Deck has numerous buttons. There’s a D-pad, all the standard face buttons, two management sticks that additionally reply to capacitive contact and could be pushed down like buttons, two trackpads with haptic suggestions which might be additionally pressure-sensitive buttons, two shoulder bumpers, two analog shoulder triggers, and 4 buttons on the again of the machine behind the grips.

Someway, all of them really feel like they’re precisely in the proper place whilst you’re holding the machine, and in writing the most recent in our long-running Button of the Month sequence, you would possibly suppose that I’d wax poetic about simply considered one of them. However for me, the true magic of the Steam Deck is that any button could be the superior button, due to the machine’s wonderful software program.

The Steam Deck’s Steam button is your ticket to limitless management customizability.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Take my expertise with Cuphead’s new DLC, The Scrumptious Final Course, which accommodates a brand new gauntlet of mind-bogglingly troublesome bosses. Like the bottom Cuphead recreation, Scrumptious Final Course requires quick reflexes and fast button presses to remain alive, and the Steam Deck’s extremely customizable controls assist the button urgent a part of that equation.

Throughout a battle, I often preserve my proper thumb glued on the taking pictures button (on the Steam Deck, X) whereas utilizing one other a part of my thumb to press bounce (A). However when each cut up second counts, I discovered I used to be reluctant to raise my thumb even a second to press the sprint or particular shot buttons. That infinitesimal break may imply the distinction between surviving one other barrage or dying and having to start out a combat all the best way from the start. With only a couple tweaks and 30 seconds within the Steam Deck’s menus, although, I modified the controls so I may bounce, sprint, and fireplace off particular pictures with out ever having to raise my thumb.

I may have remapped the particular assault nearly anyplace on the Steam Deck, however I selected one of many 4 uncommon buttons on the again of the console, which fall virtually precisely below my third and fourth fingers after I grip the machine. As buttons, I really don’t suppose they’re enjoyable to make use of. They’re fairly shallow. However I additionally suppose it’s a superb factor that the buttons require a deliberate press to click on by way of. That makes them nice for actions you don’t need to do on accident — like, say, Cuphead’s particular pictures, which may flip the tide of a battle however take a while to cost as much as full energy.

Two of the Steam Deck’s again buttons.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

I additionally turned the R2 set off right into a parry button and mapped the L2 set off to the brand new dodge roll combo for Ms. Chalice, the brand new character launched within the DLC. The roll sometimes requires urgent down and the Y button on the identical time, and I had numerous bother nailing it throughout the Scrumptious Final Course’s hectic boss fights. Placing the combo on L2 made the roll lots simpler to make use of.

Utilizing shoulder triggers for motion actions so that you could preserve your thumbs on the management sticks is a way I realized after scouting higher customized layouts for Returnal on PS5, and it made a giant distinction in Cuphead, too. And I made the L4 again button into an immediate screenshot button so I may snap pics of Scrumptious Final Course’s devious boss designs. (One later boss is actually nightmare gasoline.)

Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

I haven’t simply messed with buttons. In Vampire Survivors, I’ve the proper stick mirror the left in order that I can change between them. (I’m making the sport suppose that I’ve two left analog sticks.) The sport usually requires you to continually push the management stick for upwards of half-hour to outlive towards hordes of baddies, so with the ability to change sticks helps my left hand from getting drained.

And also you don’t should provide you with these concepts your self: if you wish to look by way of different peoples’ concepts for management schemes, you may browse them proper from a recreation’s menu in SteamOS, which means you don’t should go digging by way of Reddit like I did for Returnal.

There’s a wealth of choices for only one button.

The Steam Deck’s unimaginable customizability and easy accessibility to various controls opens up a extra philosophical query: who ought to determine what a button does? In most video video games, that’s largely out of your arms (pun supposed). However with the Steam Deck, you are able to do all kinds of untamed issues that push how we would historically suppose a sure button must be used.

In Half-Life 2, for instance, there’s a wild structure that permits you to contact the highest of the proper management stick with activate gyro aiming, tilting the system to maneuver your reticle with much more accuracy than a joystick alone. That’s one thing you may activate for any recreation with just a few faucets on the Deck. You might even theoretically make low-lift multiplayer sofa video games work on a single Deck by setting half the Deck to duplicate a mouse and keyboard and the opposite half to make use of gamepad controls.

It helps that it takes just some button presses to get to the menu that permits you to change any button you need. You should utilize that menu to decide on what any button does for any recreation in your Steam library, and it’ll routinely keep in mind what you set for every recreation. And since each Steam Deck comes with the identical set of buttons, you received’t want to purchase issues like an further controller or a separate accent to fiddle with much less frequent enter choices like again buttons. The Steam Deck really helps you to determine the way you need to play a recreation, and that flexibility is rapidly making it considered one of my favourite devices ever.

As extra folks get their arms on the Steam Deck, I can’t wait to see how others consider new and artistic methods to customise controls for my favourite video games. For now, I’ll preserve utilizing my very own controls for specials in Cuphead — and I’ll attempt to seize a screenshot after I lastly beat the terrible dragon boss.

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