Saturday, September 14, 2013

Enhancing Android Gaming: Controllers and Consoles

A large portion of Android users see with gaming as an afterthought; an added perk of their web-enabled smartphone. Because the top shelf Android smartphones cost hundreds of dollars and often require a long-term contract, they're inaccessible to a large portion of the gaming population. There are prepaid Android phones and budget tablets mass produced overseas, but they won't run the higher end games and often have software issues. The biggest hindrance to Android gaming though, on both ends of the spectrum, is the lack of physical buttons. Tactile feedback provides a level of accuracy necessary to master a game's mechanics. Touch-centric games don't suffer in this regard, but there are far too many more traditional games that are hard to enjoy without being able to "feel" the game world. Luckily, there are plenty of solutions.

MOGA Pocket/Pro


There are dozens upon dozens of Bluetooth controllers designed to augment Android devices but few can boast the level of quality seen by MOGA. Both the pocket and pro versions have a convenient, adjustable clip that will fit almost any smartphone (up to 3.2 inches). Regardless, these controllers will work with any Android device running Android 2.3 or higher. MOGA should be the first stop for a quality Android controller, but those who do a lot of public mobile gaming might want something even more portable.

iMpulse

It doesn't get more compact than the iMpulse Bluetooth controller. Designed to be taken anywhere, the iMpulse fits nicely in the pocket and has a minimal, streamlined design that'll work well with plenty of games. It has a range of one hundred feet, and, should it get lost, can be made to emit a chirping noise. iMpulse works on multiple platforms, can be flipped for left-handed gamers, and can be used two-at-a-time on a single device to game with a friend. It can also be used to control media apps, making it one of the most compact and versatile controllers on the market.

PS3/Wii Controller

Dedicated Android controllers are a fine investment, but anyone with a PS3 or Wii will find they don't need to spend money on superfluous hardware. Using the free Wiimote Controller or the inexpensive Sixaxis Controller Android apps, gamers can get their Android gaming groove on with an interface they're already familiar with. For PS3 controllers, the GameKlip will attach the device to the controller, much like the MOGA does.

JOYSTICK-IT

 
Talk about minimal. The JOYSTICK-IT acts as a miniature arcade stick for any device with a capacitive touch screen. For only $5 it's probably the cheapest way to instantly improve gaming on Android. It's easily removable, repositon-able, and won't damage the screen. Just stick it on the digital control pad and go to town.

JXD Handhelds

No, that's not a Vita, but an Android look-alike made for hardcore Android gaming. With a 1.5ghz Dual Core CPU, 5-Point capacitive touchscreen, the above pictured JXD S5110B can handle all the latest Android games compatible with the Android 4.1.1 OS. They also offer devices modeled after the original PSP and the WiiU controller, each with their own specifications. While Bluetooth controllers are a cheaper investment, not every game will support them. Because the controls of JXD Handhelds are inherent, this is not an issue. For those who aren't interested in spending hundreds on the latest Android smartphones and don't like the idea of using an external controller, the JXD line of handhelds are the obvious choice.

Nvidia SHIELD

NVIDIA SHIELD Gaming Portable, 5" 720p Retinal Display, Tegra 4 Mobile Processor, Android Jelly Bean, 802.11n 
Typically known as a manufacturer of PC graphics hardware, Nvidia have entered the handheld market with SHIELD. Boasting an NVIDIA Tegra 4 Quad Core Mobile Processor with 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, a 5 inch 1280x720 multi-touch retinal quality display, and the Android Jelly Bean OS, this beastly machine is less portable gaming device and more of a handheld PC. Oh yeah, it can also stream PC games over WiFi. Never again will toilet time be uneventful. Instead of reading the ingredients on that bottle of handsoap for the nth time, scare the shit out of yourself with the SHIELD and a great horror game.

Regardless of the misguided criticisms coming from more "traditional" gamers, Android has become a well-established platform for gaming. With so many ways to play, there's no reason mobile gaming has to be such a divisive topic. It's obviously here to stay, and can simultaneously appeal to the casual gamer playing Angry Birds on a lunch break and the gamer who wants to sit on the couch for three hours playing an epic RPG. Most of us fall into both of those categories anyway.

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