Hey gang, Valkor here. When it comes to gaming on mobile devices, I'd much rather stick with certified, bona fide gaming devices such as the PS Vita or even the Gameboy DS; gaming on a smartphone or tablet device... less than perfect, usually the virtual stick gets in the way, which makes the whole experience clumsy and/or awkward. Enter Discovery Games and Duo, who have teamed up with the folks at Gameloft to bring you a controller that alleviates the burden of having to deal with an onscreen control pad. Check it out it's the Duo Gamer Bluetooth controller for Apple's iPad, iPhone and latest generation iPod Touch devices.
On the outside, the Duo gamer looks like a standard controller, rectangular in shape, featuring two analog sticks, one directional pad (D-pad), and four face buttons. Smack dab in the middle is the Bluetooth indicator light, which signals when the device is connecting or connected. At the top of the controller you have your left/right buttons and at the back is your battery port, which the Duo Gamer takes two AA batteries (included).
The Duo Gamer was designed specifically to support Gameloft titles on iOS device and setting it up is simple; go to your settings, turn on your bluetooth, pair the device and you're all set. Once you switch on a game, the controls are already set and rarin to go. Titles that currently support the Duo Gamer are: Order & Chaos Online, Modern Combat 3 (???), N.O.V.A. 3, Asphalt 7: Heat, and Brothers in Arms 2. For this review, I chose the first three games mentioned, first playing them on the iPad's virtual stick, switching over to the Duo Gamer.
Playing Order & Chaos with the virtual controls, wasn't as painful as I thought, but playing with the Duo gamer, the process was a bit sluggish (a combination of the game and the fact that I am using a first generation iPad), but easily a much better experience. I also found using the controller in conjunction with the touch interface to be a blessing for this game, because some of the controller functions for certain onscreen actions is way to clumsy, i.e. using only the right button to switch targets. It gets annoying when there are multiple enemies on screen and hitting the button targets everywhere but the monster you want to attack.
Modern Combat 3 didn't work at all with the controller (the game would not recognize it) as of writing this review. I'm certain there has to be a fix or there will be a fix for it. Soon I hope.
Finally N.O.V.A. 3; it's been awhile since I've delved into first person shooting. Mind you at that time - I was solely a mouse and keyboard kinda guy. So it took some time adjusting to the controls and after two hours in, I totally got the hang of it (yet not enough to hang with the big boys). I found playing the game with the controller to be way more fun than using the onscreen buttons – way, way more fun. Not even exaggerating.
The entire package comes with the controller, the batteries, and a stand emblazoned with the Gameloft logo; the stand can be used to not only hold your iOS device, but there's also a place for the controller. And FYI, the controller works perfectly with my iPhone 4S, though it is weird playing on such a small screen. However if you want the big screen experience, you might wanna pick up Apple's Digital AV adapter, with HDMI out so you can experience these titles as you would your current gen systems.
TOV Breakdown? TOV Breakdown.
Duo Gamer, you're one impressive controller; specifically built for the iOS devices, you're a blessing I've long for, for some time. Seriously I'm no fan of the virtual controllers. OK, I'm not completely sold, but I did find that the onscreen buttons worked well for Gameloft's Eternal Legacy. However trying to get around in an FPS or action RPG? Not all that great. I mean you're fingers get in the way, your hands might block a certain area you need to see, or you may end up hitting a button you didn't mean to simply because it was really close by. *sigh* But it ends now with the Duo Gamer as it takes your hands away from the screen, putting you in full control of your game. Other than the Modern Combat 3 issue, I had no serious mishaps with the controller, no connection issues or button pressing concerns; overall it was a smooth process, worked great, and it's totally bringing me into the iOS experience.
But the device isn't without fault. I already mentioned MC3, however that can be fixed with an update. Next is the look of the device, which is rather generic. I'm gonna have to add some stickers on that bad boy to give it some life. And what really annoyed me was the fact that the buttons have no color – the letters are simply etched in. It can get rather confusing, especially if you're not used to the layout, you can easily forget what button you have to press. And forget about playing with the lights out - that ain't happening. Finally, the price is a bit steep – 80 bucks. I'm certain if you search online you can find a better deal, but as its stand, it's just too expensive for a controller that only works on specific titles. And that's the Duo Gamer's biggest downfall – you can't use this controller with any other title but Gameloft's. It's not a bad deal if you enjoy their games (and so far I don't hate them), but if you don't play any then it's not worth investing.
In the end and for what it's worth, I think Duo Games is on to something with the Duo Gamer controller; hopefully this opens the floodgates for more controllers to be released into the iOS market that will work on the majority of titles out there and on the way (I can use one for NBA Jam). But as it stands, the Duo Gamer is a solid effort and a much needed accessory that'll improve your gaming experience tenfold. So out of TOV 5 stars, I'm giving the Duo Gamer a 3.5 and it's been Valkor tested, TOV Approved.