Joystick-it for iPad hands-on
There's no doubt that, with thousands of titles on offer, the iPad is a valid portable(ish) games machine. Indeed, some apps could happily rival PSP and DS equivalents, yet cost a fraction of the price.
One bugbear we've always had with console quality games on the device, though, is that the capacitive touchscreen, sweaty thumbs and fiddly virtual thumb controllers do not make for a pleasant gaming experience, nor do they allow you to concentrate on the action without constantly looking to wear your digits are placed.
ThinkGeek has the answer, mini arcade control sticks that stick to the screen at the exact point of the in-game controls in order to give you completely 360-degree movement, tangibly and accurately.
Its Joystick-it tablet arcade stick is a tiny godsend for iPad gamers. At its bottom it has a non-damaging suction cup, which has enough give for the stick to wiggle about. Above that there's a capacitive sponge, the type of which you'd find in smaller quality at the tip of a stylus. It is this that interacts with the screen.
The rest is a solid milled aluminium construction (or so it says on the box), which feels chunky in the hand, regardless of its diminutive stature. And that's really all there is to it. It is a masterpiece of simplicity.
Not all games work with the Joystick-it, of course. Some don't have 360-degree controls, so they're out, and some on-screen pads are either too big or two small for the game to register the stick's directions. However, it has been designed to suit the average dimensions, so should work on plenty of games to make it worthwhile.
We tried it on Pacman, Galaxian Reloaded (removed from the App Store, presumably for copyright infringement), Sacred Odyssey and Speedball 2, and it worked beautifully on all of them. In many cases, changing the entire dynamic of the game, and improving the experience no end.
Another bonus is that, should you acquire two Joystick-its, you can use them at the same time - something we tried on EA's Reckless Racing and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3... The first took a bit of getting used to, as you're using both sticks at once, and they don't respond quite the same as a conventional thumbstick; but the second allowed two players to play on the same screen during UMK3. Result.
We didn't get to test them on an Android tablet, but are also assured they work on one of those too.
The only downsides we can mention are that it's a ThinkGeek exclusive, so needs to be ordered from the States, and that each Joystick-it is fairly pricey. One stick will cost $24.99 (£15.62), while two, when ordered together, will set you back $39.99 (£25). And that's without postage and packaging, which could cost a bit over $20 (£12.50) for shipment to the UK. Plus, there's the UK Customs charges to consider - we ended up paying those to the delivery guy on arrival.
Is it worth it though? For arcade-style control over some of the iPad's greatest games? You betcha.
How do you play iPad games? Will these make a huge difference to you? Let us know in the comments below...