In iOS 7, Apple introduced a game controller framework, bringing a standardised platform for physical button controllers to iOS. There have been attempts at iOS compatible game controllers, like the iCade, but now Apple have baked it right in to iOS and published detailed specifications regarding their use. This gives developers a heads up on what to expect their users to have and for manufacturers, it provides a blueprint for what a controller should have that will work well with games on iOS. The first fruits of this is endeavour are the Logitech G550 PowerShell and the MOGA Ace Power.
Today I have with me the AU$129, Logitech PowerShell. It’s very reminiscent of the Atari Lynx that my parents wouldn’t buy me because I was too young at the time. You pop your iPhone 5/5s or 5th-gen iPod touch in the middle, load up a supported game (there’s a list on the Logitech site, but it’s not that updated, more and more games support it every day), and away you go. There’s no setting up at all. The game knows if you have a controller plugged in and you can start playing with it right away.
The games I tried were [itunes link=”https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/ms.-pac-man/id284736660?mt=8&uo=4″ title=”Ms_PAC-MAN” text=”Ms. Pac Man”], [itunes link=”https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/limbo-game/id656951157?mt=8&uo=4″ title=”LIMBO_Game” text=”Limbo”] and [itunes link=”https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/grand-theft-auto-san-andreas/id763692274?mt=8&uo=4″ title=”Grand_Theft_Auto_San_Andreas” text=”Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas”] – all of them had no problems with the controller and I think they’re positively improved by the controller. Maybe it’s because I grew up playing games with a controller, but for the majority of games on the iPhone, it feels natural. There’s certainly games that work well without a controller (Letterpress, Quizup, The Walking Dead) and certainly don’t need one, but many games (particularly ports from other platforms or more traditional games) are better to play with a controller than with touch controls alone.
As for the Logitech controller itself – it’s.. okay, but not perfect. The controller I use almost daily is the PS3 Dual Shock. My formative years revolved around the PlayStation. From the first Sony DualShock controller in 1997 to right now with the PS3, there’s hardly a day gone past that I haven’t held a Sony controller in my hand. It’s what I consider a controller to be (I adapted to the Xbox 360 controller, but it’s still wrong compared to the PlayStation), so that’s the benchmark for me.
Unfortunately, the Powershell is not in the same league as a PlayStation controller. I found the buttons too small, too close together and a bit stiff. To add further annoyance, the d-pad is slightly unresponsive at times. I’d push the arrow a certain way and it wouldn’t react and I’d need to push it again to get a response. It wasn’t all the time, but it happens enough that it’s annoying. This is exacerbated in a trivial game like Ms. Pac Man and I would fail to change direction in time, get eaten by a ghost and die. Lame.
The lack of analog sticks (which are accounted for in the Apple specifications for a controller) are not on the Powershell, making it quite poor for ports of PlayStation games in particular, which had the two analog sticks and a d-pad. The Powershell only has a d-pad. The MOGA Ace Power has two analog sticks, similar to a PlayStation Vita. In a game like Grand Theft Auto, those sticks are pretty vital – particularly if you’ve played the games before on a console with double analog sticks, playing a game without them, sucks.
There’s a pause button under the XYAB buttons, which is nice if you need to quickly pause, instead of taking your fingers too far away from the controls to tap the screen or whatever.
The battery inside the Powershell charges up via the micro USB port on the bottom and is rated at 1500mAh, which will get close to filling up an empty iPhone battery. If you’re charging the Powershell and insert a device whilst it is charging, you can use the switch on the Powershell to toggle between charging the the Powershell or to pass through to the device and have it charge.
A lanyard handle is on the right (perfect for all your Gashapons) and on the right a headphone socket hole. Because of the depth of the case, you pretty much have to use the included adaptor to get your headphones going on the Powershell. The Apple EarPods do fit through the hole in the case, but it’s so deep down, you can’t really push the plug in to the socket. I hope you don’t lose the little adaptor either, as I don’t know how you get a replacement.
If you’ve got an iPod touch, you need to use a plastic insert, which reminds me of those insoles you put in your shoes to make them more comfy. If you lost this, you’d be screwed as well, as I don’t know where you’d get a replacement from.
The back of the Logitech Powershell is a nice grippy rubber, that doesn’t feel furry, or cheap and doesn’t have a weird ink/chemical smell like I’ve experienced on similar gripped areas before. This rubberised grip is also on the top of the two triggers. The Apple spec also supports four triggers (like a PS3), but Logitech have only implemented two.
I wanted to love the Logitech Powershell, I really did. I was amped up to play some GTA San Andreas on my iPhone, with a proper controller. Alas, the experience is just not there yet. It’s a shame, as Logitech have done everything right with the construction of the peripheral, except the feel and accuracy of the buttons and d-pad, which ultimately, is the whole point of the Powershell. If the quality of the d-pad and buttons aren’t up to scratch, what’s the point? It’s hard for me to recommend buying the Logitech Powershell due to this fact and the likelihood of buying one is even lower when there’s no analog sticks. But if you’re keen to try it out for yourself, the Apple Store sells it and they have a wonderful return policy.[optin-cat id=5772]