TOO little, too soon, too much. That’s the harsh conclusion when faced with one of the first officially sanctioned game controllers for the iPhone.
Almost by accident, Apple has become one of the biggest players in the game industry. Steve Jobs and co didn’t pay much attention to gaming in the iOS App Store, offering little support to developers. Yet it’s become one of the most popular categories for downloads on iPhone and iPad.
However, last September Apple took a massive but almost unheralded step that could put its phones on a par with gaming handhelds from Nintendo and Sony. Apple simply added a few lines of code to iOS7 that enabled any app to add support for third-party gamepads.
Instead of struggling with touchscreen controls, gamers would be able to play console-like titles via an accessory.
Enter the Logitech PowerShell Controller + Battery, a small, light cradle of plastic with familiar gamepad controls into which your iPhone 5 (or 5S or latest iPod Touch) fits snugly. Compared to the torment of inaccurately tapping with your fingers on the touchcreen to move a character, etc, the PowerShell feels an order of magnitude better.
But as pleasant as it is to be able to play the likes of complex titles such as Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, it becomes quickly obvious that Logitech hasn’t yet nailed the experience to match standard-setters such as the PS3 or Xbox 360 gamepads.
The buttons on the right react reasonably well but the lack of fine control in the left-hand joystick is a killer. The directional pad response could charitably be described as “mushy”, even for simple games such as Pac-Man.
The built-in battery just about doubles the iPhone’s running time but the strange adapter cable to provide access to the headphone jack is just begging to get lost.
So far, the list of games supporting third-party controllers such as the Logitech is brutally short – just over 60, with only a few greats among them.
But a far greater problem is the price of admission – at €100 Logitech is charging almost double what it costs for great gamepads such as the PS3 Dual Shock. Who’s going to lay down that much for games selling at just a few euro or less?
In fairness, the other emerging controllers face the same handicaps but until this market matures and the price tumbles, there will be few takers.