Playing an old arcade favourite on your smartphone has become a popular pastime for all kinds of people, from bored commuters who don’t particularly want to read the mind-numbing inanity of Metro in the morning, to children whose parents want them to shut up for five minutes in a restaurant.
As the mobile gaming market continues to grow, the idea of a control pad on which to play these games - instead of often clumsy virtual buttons - is rather appealing.
For this review the Gametel was tested on an iPhone 4.
The controller is currently supported by around 150 games in the iPhone’s App Store, including everything compatible with ION’s iCade.
Most of the games are fairly basic remakes of ‘classics’ or iPhone life-drainers, although there are some of the more ‘serious’ 3D games like the excellent No Gravity and Temple Run that can be played on the controller.
The Gametel is relatively straightforward to set up on the iPhone, all you need to do is download the free Gametel app and follow a set of simple instructions displayed on screen. When connected, your phone slots into a cradle on top of the unit, which looks quite cool at first but out and about will prompt ridicule from curious onlookers.
The Gametel app provides you with a list of recommended games, which you are linked directly though to buy on the App Store. Not many of them are free, which stings a little when you have paid so much already for the device and so many of the games are very basic.
The frustration doesn’t stop there though, as to download the games you need to type in your iTunes password, which can’t be done when connected to the Gametel as the iPhone’s virtual keyboard doesn’t appear. This isn’t just annoying for password entering reasons, but also if you get a text mid-game, or need to do literally anything else phone-like on your mobile phone.
Once you have managed to find a free game (after shelling out for the ruddy thing do you really want to spend anymore money before the fun can even begin?) the fun can begin. Only it can’t.
As most of you will know, the best mobile games are the ones which have been built around the hardware. This means that they are simple to control, usually with a single finger stroke or a tilt of the screen. Games, like the deliciously chaotic and borderline psychotic Box Cat are actually less fun to play using a D-Pad rather than tilting the phone.
On certain games the device’s advantages can be seen. Playing on a big screen is definitely a more pleasant experience for games which use multiple virtual buttons. Platformers like the dangerously addictive Inc are definitely improved by having a control pad attached and it’s easy to see how games like Street Fighter IV would benefit from not having thumbs in the way when playing, although this game isn’t currently compatible with the hardware.
Aside from all the above criticisms, the Gametel’s biggest problem is that it isn’t particularly fun to use and doesn’t add much to any gaming experience.
The reason the iCade for iPad is such an excellent product is that it has a clear purpose; to replicate the feeling of being at an old arcade.
Yes, it’s a ridiculous novelty item and a total waste of money, but it’s a fun one, a waste of money you are at least going to get some joy out of at a house party.
The Gametel feels like it takes what it does way too seriously, and although more and more serious games are being released for the mobile gaming market, we are a long way from a device like the Gametel being anything like a necessity.
A quote on the Gametel website from another review says; “If you’re truly serious about classic gaming on your phone then this ranks as a peripheral you’ll want to take a close look at”.
If you’re serious enough about classic gaming on your phone that you’re willing to spend near enough £40 on something which adds virtually nothing to your life, other than a constant reminder that you should not be allowed near the internet with a credit card, then the Gametel might be for you.