Since the day the Skeptical Geek went into business, people have been asking for a light gun option for games like Duck Hunt. I have been telling people all along that there were currently no options available, but that a mouse worked well for almost all gun games.
I have been aware for a while of a light gun controller offered by Ultimarc, a company well known among Mame cabinet enthusiasts for their controller boards like the Ipac, as well as controller options like joysticks, trackballs and spinners. The AimTrak is their light gun option.
Ultimarc offers two versions of the AimTrak, one with recoil and one without. I tested the model without recoil. The device consists of two parts, a sensor bar and the gun itself. The sensor bar is similar to the one for a Wii controller. It has 3 sticky pads for attaching to the top of your TV, although modern TVs are sometimes so thin that it can be difficult to keep it in place. Both the sensor bar and the gun itself connect via USB. It is best to connect the devices to a powered USB hub because the Pi has trouble producing enough current to power both devices as well as a controller and a keyboard, which you will also need.
The gun needs to be configured before it can be used in games. To configure the gun, boot up the Retro Box with the sensor bar, gun a keyboard and one controller plugged in. Go to Ports and activate the Desktop. The device will be recognized as a USB mouse, but you will notice that the pointer movement is very jerky. Stand at the correct distance from the TV, and press and hold the trigger for about 5 seconds. The pointer will gradually move to the upper left corner. When it gets there, point the gun at where the pointer is and press the trigger. The pointer will then go to the upper right corner. Point, click and the pointer will move to the bottom center. Point and click again, and now the gun is configured.
At least that is the way it is supposed to work. In reality, if you are not standing at the correct distance from the TV, or pointing the gun in the correct place, what will happen is that the pointer will go back to the center and move to the same place it was before. This will happen over and over again, until you get it right, then the pointer will move to the next location. This can be very frustrating, trying to align the gun correctly and watching the pointer move to the same place time after time after time. There is a lot of trial and error involved until you find the right spot to stand in and the right angle to hold the gun. For me, working with my test TV, a 43 inch TCL 4K, the distance was about 6 feet, or 2 meters. Your mileage may vary.
Fortunately, once you get the device configured, it works quite well. I tested it out on Duck Hunt and Hogan’s Alley for the NES, as well as several Arcade games like Chiller and Jurassic Park. Operation was very smooth and responsive. I played two consecutive levels of Duck Hunt without missing a single duck. The configuration is stored in the gun itself, and the device works correctly after several reboots.
One last thing. You will need a keyboard plugged into the Retro Box to use the light gun. This is because, for some reason, the box recognizes the gun as the Player 1 controller. There appears to be no way to configure the buttons on the gun as Start and Select, so you can’t use them to exit the game. You need to have a keyboard to exit the game using ESC. You will also need the keyboard for Arcade games, namely number 1 to start the game.
To sum up: If you can
A. Put up with the aggravation of configuring the gun without throwing it across the room and stomping on it.
B. Don’t mind the additional expense of a keyboard and USB hub on top of the gun.
C. Can put up with other annoyances like keeping the sensor bar in place on top of the TV, and making sure you are standing in the right place for each game.
Then the Aimtrak is very good way to play gun games on the Retro Box. Personally, I prefer a USB mouse. You just plug and play, it’s comfortable to use, and you can get them cheaply. But that’s me. For those of you interested in one, here is the link: