There are some technically impressive games for the Apple iPad . Some titles show off rendered graphics comparable to a home gaming system, but the platform is held back by touch screen controls. Without physical buttons and sticks, action games feel somewhat unresponsive and unsatisfying. Stick-on joysticks and pads like the ThinkGeek Joystick-It and the Logitech Joystick for iPad offer some control, but don’t quite hit it. Physical controls like the ThinkGeek iCade 8-Bitty and Discovery Bay Games Atari Arcade go a little further. And Discover Bay Games’ Duo Gamer gets closer offering the same dual analog control you find in a game system controller in a package that works with the iPad. Like other physical iPad controls, though, it’s limited in the games it supports (in this case, a handful of Gameloft games), which make its $79.99 (list) price tag hard to swallow.
The Duo Gamer is a two-part device consisting of a controller and a stand for your iPad. The stand is a wedge-shaped piece of plastic with a lip for an iPad, a hole in the center to run a charging cable, and the Gameloft logo front and center. It’s a fairly light but solid stand that will hold your iPad in place easily, though running the charging cable through the stand is only useful if you use the iPad in portrait mode. Since most games use landscape mode, you’ll either disconnect the cable or run the cable to the side, away from the stand when playing a game. It works with all current iOS devices, including all versions of the iPad, the iPhone 3GS and later, the iPod Touch 4th edition and later, and the iPad Mini.
The controller is a chunky, flat plastic slab that takes two AA batteries and connects to the iPad via Bluetooth (pairing is simple). You get a direction pad, two analog sticks, four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, and a light-up connection button in the middle, giving it all the controls you’ll need for most games. The controller is large and feels relatively comfortable in my big hands, but it feels slightly more angular than it should be, with its acute edge digging into my palms.
Like the Gameloft logo on the stand implies, the Duo Gamer is made primarily for Gameloft games, and a limited selection of them at that. Gameloft has many some impressive action games that show off what the iPad can do, but it’s still a small sampling of the total number of games available for the tablet. Currently, the only games compatible with the Duo Gamer are Asphalt 7, N.O.V.A. 3, Order & Chaos Online, Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front, and Modern Combat 3. That’s a racing game, an MMORPG, and three first-person shooters. Gameloft promises other games will be released with Duo Gamer compatibility in the future, but it’s still a small collection that offers few choices.
I tested the Duo Gamer with Gameloft’s Asphalt 7 and N.O.V.A. 3 games, a racing game and a first-person shooter. The controller worked excellently with both, and the analog sticks gave me console-quality control. In N.O.V.A. 3 I easily picked off aliens with multiple weapons, assisted only slightly by the game’s auto-aim through iron sights. Asphalt 7 similarly played well, with the analog sticks letting me steer my car with precision, without the frustration of motion or touch-screen controls. It felt like playing an arcade racer on my Sony PlayStation Vita more than playing a tablet game.
For games that support it, the Discovery Bay Games Duo Gamer makes your iPad feel like a real game system. Unfortunately, that’s a very short and focused list, which makes the controller and stand set fall short of justifying its hefty $80 price tag. If you want better controls in your iPad games, the ThinkGeek iCade 8-Bitty has fewer buttons and no analog sticks, but a longer list of supported games and a much smaller price tag at $29.99, and the Logitech Joystick for iPad works with any game with on-screen controls (even if it does block part of the screen). If you’re a Gameloft-only gamer, the Duo Gamer is a good choice for a few games, but besides that small selection it’s worthless as a gamepad.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc