First of its kind iOS 7 compatible gamepad (December 26th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: Logitech
- Snug fit - Good speaker channeling - Physical controls
- No iPhone 5c support - D-pad might be called mushy by some - So far, limited game support
We here at the MacNN testing labs have thought that the iOS ecosystem is ideal for resurrecting old franchises with one notable exception -- controls. Old-school gaming had either a control pad or keyboard and mouse in mind, and neither translate well to a small touchscreen. Apple is evidently aware of this situation, and with iOS 7, comes native OS support for a "Made For i" specified controller. Amongst the first wave of these controllers is the Logitech PowerShell controller and battery combination, and MacNN has played with it for a while now.
The PowerShell is essentially an extended 4.2 ounce iPhone case, and measures 7.9 inches long, 2.6 inches wide, and 0.7 inches thick. It contains a 1,500 mAh battery, giving the phone about double the usable time for gameplay. The case fits the iPhone 5, 5S and fifth generation iPod Touch. The iPhone 5c notably does not physically fit in the case, making it incompatible completely with the device.
The controls on the pad align exactly with the Apple specification for the controller. There is one D-pad which Logitech calls analog, four face buttons labeled A. B, X, and Y in what has become the standard diamond configuration, and two shoulder buttons. A cutout allows access to the mute switch and analog buttons. A physical hole is on the right hand side of the controller, allowing the user to thread through a headphone plug with a proprietary adapter, but this is extremely awkward to position. We greatly preferred either the internal speakers, or threading through a headphone plug with a very thin pair of tweezers.
Charging of the battery and the device when installed is accomplished with a Micro USB port on the left side, with a power switch nearby to engage the controller. The iOS device's power button is a pass-through switch on the face of the controller, just to the right of the D-pad.
We tried The Walking Dead, Limbo, Ms. Pac Man, Lego Lord of the Rings, and Galaxy on Fire with the controller. While the use of an external stick combo like the PowerShell definitely enhanced game visibility, we found the controls to be just barely less precise that we liked, but certainly usable. The D-pad, perhaps due to its "analog" nature had a little "slop" to it, but once we adjusted to it, we didn't find it an impediment to gameplay.
First person shooter titles will suffer from using this controller, we think. The lack of dual analog sticks hampers these titles, requiring the user to use an awkward combination of touchscreen and physical controllers for precision. Platformers and classic titles we feel are the best fit for The PowerShell, in its current iteration.
Game support at this time is decent. Logitech notes 42 games as being compatible with the peripheral, and we found another seven not listed, with just a cursory examination of the App Store. With no reliable way to filter developer's offerings on the App Store, there very well could be many, many more. Apple's support for the class of peripherals is explicit, so the compatibility list will grow with time. In the interest of comparison, the iCade family of devices supports a significantly larger amount of titles, but they are primarily classic titles.
Game controllers are a very personal thing. Back in the early part of the 21st century, I preferred the "Duke" original Xbox controller to nearly everything else, much to the derision of my peers. In this modern generation, the Xbox 360 controller is preferred by some, and the Playstation 3 Dual-Shock is championed by others. Like game system battles fought in years before on the schoolyard this one and continuing to this day on the Internet, the controller choice is a personal one, and what works for you, may not work for me. It is a good stick for 2D platform titles, but less so for first person shooters. Real-time strategists and turn-based players can completely skip this one. That all said, the PowerShell is a good first offering for the iOS gamepad specification, and certainly not the last.