Moga claims its Pro Controller transforms gaming on-the-go on Android phones. It’s a bold assertion. But, let's face it, Moga is far from the first peripheral-maker to make that kind of boast for its kit.
If anyone’s going to get an smartphone games controller add-on right, though, it’s probably Moga. With years and years in the game, it's fair to say that not for nothing was it chosen by Cupertino to work on forthcoming Apple-endorsed controllers for the iPhone.
We gave the Pro Controller a thorough once-over to cut through the PR puff and see if it's got what it takes to save us from one-dimensional casual games and punishingly intricate touchscreen controls.
Fashioned from featherweight plastic, the 6.7-ounce Pro Controller is lighter than the average joypad, which makes it eminently portable. That’s pretty essential when you’re asking punters who've grown to used to all-in-one smartphones to carry around a peripheral in their bags.
Closest to an Xbox controller in appearance, the layout is exactly what you’d expect from a console pad. Think: shoulder and trigger buttons, a D-pad, four standard ‘action’ pressers and dual analogue sticks.
A robust clip keeps smartphones tightly and securely in place, so there’s no chance of them slipping their moorings and ending up as sad shards on the floor while you bolt across railway platforms to make that connection on your commute home.
Unlike Moga’s first effort, the Pro Controller ditches standard batteries for a rechargeable cell. Natch, it’s a welcome change. Even if charging on occasion took a little bit longer than we expected.
Pairing the Pro Controller with our phone is easy enough on paper. Once you’d downloaded the Moga Pivot (part control centre for your joypad and part games-buying hub), it ought to have been just a case of following the step-by-step instructions.
Alas, the first couple of times we attempted the Bluetooth mindmeld, the process timed-out. It went on to do this a few times more while we had it. But had improved a lot after we’d been using the pad for a few days.
In the looks stakes, it’s fair to say the sight of a smartphone jemmied on board the controller probably won't divert aesthetes away from the likes of the Nintendo 3DS.
Still that shouldn’t bother you too much when for £40 or so, you’re getting something that turns your smartphone into a gaming handheld for a fraction of the cost.
Critically, games that support Moga’s controller are pretty plentiful. We counted over 100 or so on offer through the Pivot, which is where you'll find titles that have been optimised for the Pro Controller. And judging by the fact that the number stood at 60-odd a few months ago, numbers seems to be growing steadily.
These take in everything from fondly remembered Dreamcast favourite Crazy Taxi and cell-shaded wonder Jet Set Radio to big hitters such as Grand Theft Auto 3.
It also works with less immersive, casual titles such as Cordy and Wind-up Knight. And unlike, its predecessor works with games that aren’t optimised for it.
But of course it’s with the more complex titles where the Pro Controller comes into its own. Ace Halo-tribute NOVA 3 goes from a trial by fiddlyness and frustration into the massively playable first-person shooter that you always knew was buried beneath the surface.
The absence of the ‘ping’ you might expect when paired over Bluetooth was also pleasing, meaning there’s no detectable delay in response between the button press and the action on screen. That’s vital for giving you the edge in multi-player battles.
The same went for third-person GTA Vice City. Previously it was blighted by a messy mass of controls that made delicate or fine manoeuvres as tough as any of the felons that the 1980 Cuban crimewave brought to Florida.
Plug in the Pro Controller, though, and it’s almost exactly comparable with playing RockStar’s game-changer on your console way back when. Right down to the now pretty shonky-looking graphics (we’re not blaming Moga for those).
With the Pro Controller, Moga has addressed the niggles that hamstrung its previous smartphone controller. It’s lighter, more portable, works with many, many more games now that they don’t have to be Moga-sanctioned and frees you from having to shell out for batteries.
All of which augurs very well for Apple and Moga’s collabo. Especially given that you’d expect Ive and co’s guiding hand to result in a pad that will look the business.
At £40, the Pro Controller isn’t a cheap bit of kit, which may put off less committed gamers. But it’s a fairly small price to pay when you consider how many Android games are free. And in the light of the fact that a Nintendo 3DS won’t get you much change out of £180.