Hands-on Impressions of the Bladepad – An iOS Game Controller
Smartphone and tablet devices have more or less taken over the mobile gaming market with their collection of high-quality titles at an affordable price (if not free), but the virtual controls that most of these games employ aren’t quite perfect. FPS games are the most difficult experiences to enjoy on small touchscreen devices due to their reliance on twin-stick shooting controls, which just don’t feel natural in a virtual setting. Other games that also utilize virtual renditions of a standard game controller don’t fare too much better, which has spawned a new market of hardware-based controllers for touchscreen devices to help make the experience feel more at home for hardcore gamers.
Android users have had multiple types of 3rd-party controller attachments to alleviate the awkwardness of using virtual joysticks on a touchscreen device, but until now the same couldn’t be said for Apple’s iOS devices. Luckily, a new product is about to go to retail to finally give iDevices the gamepad that they’ve so desperately needed. This sexy looking and feeling contraption is called the Bladepad, and I was fortunate enough to get some hands-on time with it while at E3.
The Bladepad itself is the same size as the iDevice its made for. The device is scaled for the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5, as well as the iTouch 5th gen. It would’ve been nice if the controller were universal, but with the different sizes of the iPhone model it would have been nearly impossible to do so and maintain a sleek and compact look.
The controller attaches itself to the iPhone/Touch as if it were a protective case. The Bladepad can then be slid out to provide dual joysticks, a d-pad, both sets of shoulder buttons, as well as face buttons. Doing so also props the iPhone/Touch display at an angle making the device feel more like a true mobile gaming unit such as the 3DS, or PS Vita. The Bladepad does add a noticeable amount of weight to the iPhone/Touch it’s attached to, but it isn’t enough to make the gaming experience intolerable.
While playing a compatible title (a random FPS for my demo as not all iOS titles work with the BP yet) the Bladepad made the experience feel as close to a console gameplay session as it possibly could. The dual joysticks felt a little close together, but considering that the Bladepad is the size of an iPhone/Touch, that is too be expected. Every input translated to the on-screen action instantly, and there were no delays at all from the Bladepad to the iPhone hosting the game.
It was amazing to finally play a FPS game on an iPhone and actually feel like I had complete control over my character’s movements, as well as his aim. The strange feeling of a playing a game of this nature using virtual controls wasn’t present whatsoever. It was easy to strafe and fire, get around the map, and make precision kill shots while using the Bladepad to control this particular title. The experience felt familiar, which is the biggest upside of using a device like the Bladepad for iOS gaming on the go.
Smartphones and tablets (Bladepad can also be bluetooth paired to retina iPads and the mini) are fantastic mediums to deliver high-end games in a mobile setting, but their virtual controls are less than satisfactory. This conundrum leaves the hardcore gaming crowd feeling out of place while playing mobile titles that replicate experiences provided by the big name consoles. Point-and-click titles work flawlessly on touchscreen devices, but games that require any sort of joystick operations usually feel clunky and out of place.
The $99 Bladepad for iOS is just what the mobile game doctor ordered when it comes to providing console-like gaming experiences on Apple’s lineup of current iDevices. It’s sleek look and feel maintain the natural beauty of the iPhone/Touch that its attached to, and it doesn’t add much bulk to the weight of the device. The backlit controller feels very similar to holding a smaller sized traditional gaming unit such as the DS, and it’s very responsive to your inputs.
With 18 hours of battery life the Bladepad can turn any trip away from home into a mobile gaming session that feels more traditional than the odd virtual controls setup that developers implement into touchscreen-based games. If this device sounds like something you’d be interested in buying, you can head on over to the official site to check out more details on the Bladepad and place your order.
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