Virtualized control schemes have always been a bit of a problem for me. Using onscreen controls leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to gaming, and more often than not, if the controls are implemented poorly, I’ll just move on, leaving the game behind permanently. While I’m not the type of person who constantly tries to put buttons all over my iPad, the Joystick-it ($24.99) certainly caught my attention the first time I saw it online. The concept is quite simple. Instead of using your thumbs as a joystick, you can attach the Joystick-it to your iPad, creating your very own “Arcade Stick” for the iPad. You can use one Joystick-it for games that require you to use buttons, or two Joystick-its for games that require multiple controllers on a dual axis.
The Joystick-it saves me from a lot of pain in my thumbs. I’m not arthritic, but I certainly get thumb fatigue when playing games for an extended period of time. I took the Joystick-it ($24.99) for a spin with a couple of different games and in all cases I was able to continue playing long into the night, well beyond my normal gameplay endurance levels.
In most cases, the Joystick-it performed admirably, especially when control mechanics were defined as a controller based layout. That being said, there are a few things that need a little bit of work.
What needs work
While the Joystick-it is pretty much a win across the board, there are a couple of problems with the arcade stick. First, the suction cup that holds the Joystick-it to your iPad could be stronger. While knee deep in battling pixelatted monsters, there were a couple of times when the Joystick-it popped off of my iPad. The disappearing Joystick-it act left me scrabbling to find a pause button so I wouldn’t die. Not cool.
The second problem is more of a game mechanic problem. Once the Joystick-it is attached firmly to your iPad, you can’t see anything under the joystick. On a couple of occasions, buttons would be hidden without me even realizing it. Having to pop off the joystick to see a hidden button was a bit of a pain. I’m not sure how they could fix the problem, but if they do manage to figure it out, the Joystick-it would be a bigger hit than it already is in my book.
This device works great all around, but it works the best when a game has implemented a touch anywhere based control mechanic. You know the type. They’re the games that let you touch anywhere on the screen to control your character, instead of designating a certain controller area. The benefits of this model are two-fold: first, it lets you place your joystick where it’s most comfortable to you, and secondly, it lets you place your joystick in a place where it won’t inhibit game play.
Those two things are important for gameplay, but they’re aren’t something the Joystick-it can solve; instead, developers might want to start thinking about providing Joystick-it optimized control schemes in their games.