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Summary:

I hate on-screen game controls; there I said it. As gaming goes mobile, there has to be a better solution than covering up screen to move and play. Nyko has the right idea, debuting its PlayPad products for phones and tablets running Android 3.0 or better.

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I hate on-screen game controls; there I said it. Granted, not everyone minds them, but as gaming goes mobile, there has to be a better solution than covering up an already small screen with your fingers just to move around and shoot some aliens. Nyko has the right idea, debuting its PlayPad products for phones and tablets running Android 3.0 or better. The controllers arrive this fall at a yet to be determined price.

The PlayPad and PlayPad Pro use Bluetooth as the connection and were developed in conjunction with Nvidia; that’s not surprising given Nvidia’s core competency in graphics chips as evidenced by the 12 GPU cores in Tegra 3. I literally just took delivery of a new review unit, a 7.7-inch tablet from Toshiba that uses a Tegra 3 chip,and immediately started gaming. As I saw in my review of the Asus Transformer Prime, another Tegra 3 product, graphics are smooth and detailed. But of course, I’m not seeing some of them because my hands are in the way.

The PlayPad products will alleviate that problem when they arrive, offering traditional D-Pads, analog sticks and buttons; PlayPad is a more compact version of the PlayPad Pro. Nyko hasn’t announced prices yet, but I’m already interested. My time using an Xbox 360 controller with the Transformer Prime showed that adding true gaming controls makes for a world of difference and a more console-like gaming experience. Towards the end of this video look at the Prime: you can see how enjoyable the gaming experience is with a controller.

  1. Andreas Ødegård Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    Nyko isn’t the only one to do this, Gamestop is doing the same, and that just piles on top of a couple of dozen such controllers that already exist. The irony though is that you don’t need an ICS tablet with controller support to actually use a controller. I’ve been using USB/BT Joystick Center to get controller support on my devices, and what it offers if you have root makes these off the shelf solutions look pathetic: touch screen emulation. That means it doesn’t emulate a keyboard, it emulates the touchscreen, so that any app that has touch controls can be used with essentially any controller. There’s even support for mouse&keyboard using touch emulation, as well as a wii remote in motion control mode. Here’s a video I shot of the latter used for Angry Birds a while back: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voGMvRa60sU

    The best use for the touch emulation is for analog stick control though. Normally, analog sticks work as D-pads, meaning four buttons: up/down/left/right. An analog stick has essentially limitless “states”. Playing Super Mario 64 on an emulator is a great example: with d-pad functionality you can run in 4 directions and combine two to run diagonally. With analog stick support you can run, walk, or crawl in any direction. Some controllers, like the Phonejoy and iControlpad, use an interface system by Bluez IME to actually get analog stick support on non-rooted devices. For the most part though, having a rooted device and an app emulate the area where the virtual analog stick is is the way to go to get true analog stick support.

    Personally, games like Shadowgun can go…something themselves. Super Mario 64 or Zelda Ocarina of Time, with custom high res textures, on an AMOLED device, with an analog stick enabled game controller, now THAT is how mobile gaming should be!

    So yeah, existing hardware that you can go out and buy right now can make any Android device use any controller to play more or less any game. Unfortunately, judging from the number of downloads of the apps in question, this is a hidden gem on Android if I ever saw one. I wrote a guide for it once but I doubt that helped much

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