Contrary to widely held opinion, touchscreens don't suck for gaming. They just suck for games designed without touchscreens in mind. Angry Birds and Cut The Rope came up with new mechanics and sold by the ton. Meanwhile driving games, shoot-em-ups and FPS titles have suffered - especially conversions of older titles.
What we need is a controller to level the playing field with consoles. But no matter how many external controllers we try, nothing quite hits the sweet spot.
So far, at least. Nvidia's Shield (see above) - a clamshell phone-gamepad hybrid device with a flip-up screen, built-in controller and PC streaming - is the latest attempt to find something in between a phone and a gamepad that actually works.
So does it work? Well, reviewers have praised its general build quality and unique features, but criticised the lack of compatible games, and the high price you have to pay for what is essentially a less-well supported, weird-looking competitor to the 3DS and PS Vita.
Either way, as yet there's no plan for a UK launch. And so even if this form factor looks about right to you, you're out of luck.
Or are you? Here are two relatively inexpensive Android gamepads with built-in phone holders, which attempt to provide a similar experience to Shield - at far less cost.
The MOGA Mobile Android Gaming System (£28.53) is described as a "high precision" controller, and in terms of build quality it pretty much lives up to the description. It's a pleasantly weighty gamepad, with two analogue sticks that feel springy and taught, neat clicky buttons and an ergonomic design. You can use it either in its "flat" configuration with your phone or tablet in front of you, or flip up the included holder to slot in your phone for a Shield-like experience. And the textured strips on the holder mean it will stay safely in place, no matter how 'vigorous' your gaming style.
Connection via Bluetooth is quick and simple, but while the Moga comes with a downloadable app ('Pivot') that brings together some key compatible titles in one place, that does highlight the big problem: not every game is compatible. Developers have to build their games specifically to support the Moga system, and without a huge critical mass of users there's no telling when your favourite app will be updated. There are about 100 compatible games so far. But without some third-party jiggery pockery you can't easily use emulators either. That's a bit of a killer.
There are some hardware issues, too. The analogue sticks feel precise, but they also feel small and a bit "flat". The buttons too are small and playing games can be fiddly - even though the gamepad is generally responsive. There's also no D-pad, which is a shame for games like PacMan (included with the pad, along with Sonic CD) that require a retro style input.
If you're ready to jump into the Moga game store, however, this is a well-built, high-quality gamepad which is definitely a step above the rest in build quality.
The Gametel Android controller is similar to the Moga in its basic functionality. It also uses a "flip-up" system to hold your phone in place, with the buttons underneath in a Shield-style configuration. It's also a similar price (£22.99) and boasts the neat ability to be able to control your games on your TV, via Bluetooth and HDMI.
Unfortunately, the Gametel lets itself down in build quality. The gamepad feels plasticy and rickety, and your phone doesn't feel all that secure once in place. Not to mention the fact that in many cases the clamp will end up pressing down on your side mounted volume rocker or power button, which is an annoyance.
Unlike the Moga it does theoretically work with a wide variety of games. It doesn't have its own games store and once connected it's simple to set up. But without analogue sticks (it just has a D-pad) you're essentially restricted to retro-style conversions and emulators. As such what you're left with is something far more restrictive and disappointing that the Moga, even though it's theoretically much more open.
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