We’re still in that phase where we’re trying to figure out exactly how well touch screen gaming works. Some games are perfect for it and would be awkward with any other input methods. Other games, however, would benefited greatly from hardware controls. Like Modern Combat 3, for instance, which now even has external screen support but is still held down by control issues. There are some accessories that try to help the issue, like the Fling controllers or the Thumbies (which I own but seem to have forgotten to review). All the way back in February I wrote about how tablet gaming needs accessories like this, more specifically the Fling, a built in gyroscope, and the Joystickers Classics which was then just a Kickstarter project. Well, the iPad 2 brought the gyroscope, I bough the Fling in April, and I finally got around to getting the Classics. Turns out that this latter accessory might be the best gaming accessory out there to date. Read on to find out why.
The Classics are basically stylus buttons. When you press down on them, they touch the screen and makes the screen think a finger or stylus touched it. They stick to the screen using microscopic suction cups that can best be described as a ring of rubbery material that somehow magically stick to flat, hard surfaces. The result is a much (**frantically looks for more ways to highlight that word**) more compact accessory than the Fling or the Thumbies. Just look at the top photo where I added a standard SD card for size comparison. Each Classic takes up about as much surface area on the screen as a standard button on a game controller. This means that in games like Modern Combat 3 you can shrink down the buttons and place them very close together and then attack the Classics and get buttons that are no further apart than buttons on a physical game controller. In fact, I was able to group together my “shoot” and “aim” buttons in Modern Combat 3 so they combined took up less space than what I need a single one of them to be when I use the touch screen directly in order to be able to hit the right spot at all.
The buttons also have proper resistance to them because of internal springs, compared to the Thumbies where the spring system is just a “happy accident” of the rubber suction cups. This makes the Classics feel a lot more like actual gamepad buttons, and they give you better accuracy. Each Classic sticks out from the screen 9.3mm when depressed and 7.3mm when pressed – which is frankly nothing and not annoying in the slightest.
In actual use, the Classics make a world of difference. You have a physical reference point for each button, so you can feel your way back to it. You can rest your finger on them without accidentally pressing it, and that do wonders for accuracy. I think my shooting accuracy in Modern Combat 3 on the iPad went up about 800% when I attached the Classics as I finally had control over both the aiming and the firing. It also made it a lot easier to use game emulators on my Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus as most game consoles have buttons very similar to the Classics, so they translate well. The Classics always seemed to make the screen react, so no problems there.
To mention some negatives, it’s sometimes easy to accidentally make the Classics come off. Not by pressing them, but if you have to use the screen around them to move the camera or anything like that you might accidentally “run into the side of them” and push them off. Not really the Classics’ fault as a suction area can only get you that far when getting hit from the worse possible angle for anything suction cup based; the side. Also, they do seem a bit…hand made. The plastic is a bit rough here and there, some edges that shouldn’t be there. It doesn’t affect the use in the slightest and they’re so small that even tiny imperfections are very noticeable compared to the item as a whole, but it’s just not something you would accidentally think is made by Apple. Not that they should be.
All in all, the Classics are great for touch screen gaming. $20 buys you a pack of three that comes in a small pouch for storage, and that’s not a bad price at all. Three classics normally gives you your two most used buttons (which can be aim and shoot in a shooter, or jump and run in a platformer) and one more to use for whatever. When I said in the beginning that this might be the best gaming accessory out there I did so because it’s the accessory I’ve seen that gives you an experience closest to that of a game controller. A lot of accessories improve touch screen gaming but still don’t feel like the real deal. Then you have accessories like the iCade that actually bring real buttons using Bluetooth, but those are limited to compatible games which means not very many.[Joystickers]