The U-Force or: A $70 Controller that Didn’t Work

By the late 1980s, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) had become the dominant home video game console in the U.S. As a result, companies scrambled to cash in on the NES goldmine, similar to how companies have been cashing in on the Apple iPod/iPhone goldmine recently. We end up with a few great products and a ton of junk.

There were several third-party software developers whose NES games were often well-produced. Konami and its subsidiary Ultra Games, Capcom, Sunsoft, Tecmo, and HAL Laboratory come to mind. There were also a few great third-party hardware accessories for the NES, including Taito’s Arkanoid controller, Galoob’s Game Genie, Beeshu’s Ultimate Superstick, and Software Toolworks’s Miracle Piano…and again, a ton of junk.

One of the companies to compete for a piece of the NES action was Broderbund. Several of its NES games received positive reviews, like The Battle of Olympus, Dusty Diamond’s All-Star Softball, and The Guardian Legend. However, the company also published mediocre titles like Spelunker and the infamous Deadly Towers.

Perhaps Broderbund’s biggest risk – and one of the worst accessories released for the NES – was its handsfree motion-sensitive U-Force controller:

Broderbund U-Force box - front

Broderbund U-Force box - back

At least, it was supposed to be motion-sensitive. It was released in 1989 and cost around $70, which was a bit more expensive than most NES games at the time, even at rip-off stores like Video Dynasty in Belleville, NJ.

I only knew one person who owned a U-Force. I went to his house across the street and tried playing a few different NES games with it: Super Mario Bros., Top Gun, and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! We read the instructions, adjusted the DIP switches accordingly, and tried all sorts of hand movements, but it just didn’t work. It was too bad because the ads made it seem pretty cool.

Broderbund U-Force ad

“It will change the way you play video games forever.” Of course it will.

I wonder how many other people had wasted $70 on that useless contraption. I’m guessing not many, otherwise there probably would’ve been a class action lawsuit against Broderbund.

(images from NESHQ.com and Club Nintendo Collectors)

3 responses to “The U-Force or: A $70 Controller that Didn’t Work

  1. Anarchy Dragon

    Too bad it didn’t work…

    but I gotta tell ya I really do Love Deadly Towers! I’m not sure why everybody hates it so much, I play the hell out of it!

  2. kinectreviewsandinterviews

    haha, this brings by memories. I’m so glad someone else had the same issues with this. I thought I was the only one. Too bad the internet was thriving back then, so I can find solace in other’s demises with this product.

  3. I cannot believe I found this site. I’ve always wondered what was the name of the worst controller I’ve ever seen or had the displeasure to use. I remember spending days trying to get it to work properly. Shame!

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