As mobile developers like Gameloft attempt to bring the iPad gaming experience closer in line with what "traditional" gamers can expect on their home consoles, we've seen Gameloft partner with Duo Games to release the Duo Gamer, an iOS controller that allows players the chance to play a selection of Gameloft's games without the need for touch controls and other iOS gimmicks.
Unfortunately, the Duo Gamer only works with a few Gameloft games, and currently isn't compatible with games from any other developer or publisher (although we can't really see why other developers couldn't engineer their own versions). We got a chance to go hands on with the Duo Gamer controller across games like Modern Combat 3, Asphalt 7, and N.O.V.A. 3, and have found that while this handheld device definitely improves on the iOS gaming experience, it still falls short of the fluidity and comfort found in a traditional console setup.
In terms of design, the Duo Gamer is boxy and reminiscent of the original Nintendo controller from the 1980's, but with the button layout and thumb sticks of modern controllers. That being said, the sharp edges on the bottom of the controller can dig into the palms during intense sessions with Gameloft's first person shooters, and the back of the controller lacks trigger buttons that typically go hand-in-hand with any sort of shooting game. Instead, players can fire weapons using lengthy "bumpers" on the top of the controller that take some getting used to.
Furthermore, the controller's implementation in Modern Combat 3 and N.O.V.A. 3 varies, but is overall more streamlined than a console FPS control layout. Auto aim sees the player rapidly tapping on the left bumper to aim at the next available enemy, instead of forcing the player to hold down the bumper when they wish to look down the sights. This takes a lot of getting used to for someone that spends most of their time on an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, but for someone that spends the majority of their time in iOS gaming, that likely wouldn't be an issue.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the Duo Gamer is the stiffness of the thumb sticks. They require substantial pressure to move and click, making sprinting difficult in games that allow it. This needed pressure can also hurt the thumbs in long gameplay sessions, as your fingers tire from expending so much force.
As for racing games like Asphalt 7, the controller handles much better, simply due to the ease of the controls. Across all of the compatible games we tested, there was thankfully no input lag, and the device is overall incredibly easy to setup with little more than an automatic bluetooth connection. Unfortunately, the blue LED light on the power / pause button is too bright and distracting if holding the controller right in front of the iPad / iPhone as you play.
Also included in the package is a plastic stand for your iDevice that includes a slot for a charge cable so that your iPhone or iPad can be charging as you continue to play. There's even a slot for the controller to be stored itself when not in use. These are helpful touches, but they don't necessarily make up for the stiff thumb sticks that we can only hope loosen up with time.
At a price point of $79.99 in Apple stores and on Amazon, the Duo Gamer definitely isn't cheap, and that's an incredibly high price for such a limited device. If the controller could be used universally across the thousands of iPad apps that you may have purchased over the years, then the investment would definitely be worth it, but with such a limited selection of only Gameloft's games being supported, the Duo Gamer would need to be near perfect to earn an instant recommendation. Unfortunately, it simply isn't. Still, it's a nifty little device that's worth trying if you get the chance, and would likely be worth picking up if the price drops substantially in the future or as more apps are updated to support the Duo Gamer in the future.
Click here to learn more about the Duo Gamer >
Have you tried the Duo Gamer? What do you think of iPad controllers? Do you prefer them over standard touch and tilt controls? Sound off in the comments!