Gaming these days is not what it was just a few years ago. You can pay $1 for a game that will keep you occupied for hours on end, all thanks to tablets and smartphones running iOS, Android, WebOS etc. One of the issues however is that you’re left with only a touch screen for controls, which can make the game experience less than stellar. Ten One Design hopes to fix that with their Fling game controller. The question is, does it work?
The Fling is a peculiar little accessory. It’s basically a spiral shaped plastic spring with two suction cups on the outside and a plastic analog stick shaped piece in the middle that a capacitive screen will work with. By sticking the Fling onto an existing on-screen virtual analog stick, you essentially get a flat analog stick along the lines of what the Sony PSP and Nintendo 3DS has. The purpose of this is to give you a something physical to use for controlling the movement rather than relying on the virtual control directly. Since these things don’t connect using any sort of hardware, they work with any capacitive screen that can fit them, even if the company markets as “for iPad”.
The controller seems a bit fragile being all plastic, and even comes with a protective bag suggesting you should throw it around too much. The spring mechanism is more solid than you’d think though, as it would have to be to work at all. The two suction cups are also very strong, but have no release mechanism which means that the hardest part of using this controller (and the time when it’s most likely to break) is when taking it off. Seeing as how suction cups are used to pull the front plate of many touch screen devices off for maintenance, I would be careful when removing the suction cups and try to get air under the cups instead of just pulling straight up. Long nails is a bonus here.
The Fling is sold in packs of one for $20 and 2 for $30 (and ridiculous international shipping at $25). The reason for this is that there are two main types of games that would benefit from the Fling; single stick games and dual stick games. Single stick games can include everything from first person shooters like NOVA to platform games and such, while dual stick games are most commonly dual stick shooter games. Dual stick shooters use one stick for moving and one stick for firing, e.g Max Adventure shown in the video below. Dual stick shooters generally benefit the most from the Fling since those can be used directly with two Flings and nothing more. Single stick games often have more advanced controls, e.g requiring a much larger movement of a finger on screen to move the camera, operate fire/reload/jump buttons etc. I played a bit of NOVA 2 using a Fling and some thumbies (plus the gyroscope for camera control) and it wasn’t as optimized as playing a dual stick shooter simply because the control scheme is more complicated. Generally speaking though, the Fling will improve the control of any game that works with it, so it’s just a matter of how much of an improvement we’re talking. I’m fairly confident that anyone trying a pair of Flings on their favorite dual stick shooter will set a new record the first time trying it, while using a Fling with an FPS or similar game is more like trading a PS3 controller for an X360 controller.
The analog stick feeling that you get from the Fling is quite similar to using a PSP. It’s not as ergonomic or accurate as those you find on real game controllers but at the same time it’s not bad. It’s fairly accurate and keeps in place most of the time, but because there’s nothing sticking the stick part of the controller to the screen it does lose contact with the screen if you don’t press it down hard enough. This can be a problem with some games that have dynamic analog sticks where the center/neutral position is set to where your finger/input device first touch the screen, and then all motion is relative from there. If the Fling loses contact with the screen for a split second when it’s not in neutral position itself, it can cause the game to reset the neutral position to somewhere that isn’t neutral for the Fling. This means that when the Fling is in neutral position and touching the screen, the game might see it as pointing e.g down. It can be quite annoying if you’re in the middle of a firefight and suddenly your character starts moving some direction by itself, and you have to lift the Fling’s center up from the screen and then back down again to “recalibrate”. This is a minor issue, but something that might occur.
The Fling more or less does what it claims to do; give you something physical to use for controls. That’s a lot more useful than it sounds, as you’d quickly realize from comparing games with and without the Fling. While it’s not practical for all games that technically support it, it’s a great addition to most games that do. Whether or not the price is worth it kinda depends on how much gaming you do on your device, and whether the games you play work with the Fling. It’s a lot of fun to play games using the things, so if you like gaming it might be worth it. There isn’t really anything else besides gaming that the Fling can be used for, so if you do buy one it will be for gaming. Personally I don’t think I’ll use it too much as the games that really shine on the iPad and other touchscreen devices are original games that use optimized control methods (be it using your finger to operate a slingshot in Angry Birds or using a stylus to draw objects in Max and the Magic Marker, but i all depends on what sort of games you personally play.