Duo Gamer is a new Bluetooth-enabled wireless controller for iOS devices. Manufactured by mobile device accessory company Discovery Bay Games, Duo Gamer is designed to work only with mobile game publisher Gameloft games. It’s available starting today for $79.99 from Amazon.com, Apple Stores, Best Buy and Target.
Mobile games may have console-quality visuals and gameplay now, but the apps still lack the precision of console games using a controller. Design-wise, the controller features two analog sticks, a D-pad, four face buttons, two triggers and a power button that also acts as the pause button. The Duo Gamer can also work on a TV via an iOS device with a digital AV adapter and HDMI cable and works with 1-2 players or teams. Touted as the first and only Apple-approved game controller for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, the Duo Gamer does a solid job adding its control scheme to existing Gameloft apps, but is it worth the $80 price tag?
Gameloft titles compatible with Duo Gamer include N.O.V.A. 3 Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance, Order & Chaos Online and Asphalt 7: Heat. Despite showing the app icons on the box, Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front and Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation aren’t yet compatible with Duo Gamer as of review time. More games with Duo Gamer functionality are “coming soon.”
The first title we played was the sci-fi FPS N.O.V.A. 3 (all three games were reviewed using an iPad). The first thing players will recognize is that after pairing an iOS device and Duo Gamer controller via Bluetooth, when the controller is on, N.O.V.A. 3 will automatically recognize the controller when its booted up. In the tutorial mission, the on-screen prompts adapted, telling the player the buttons for the Duo Gamer, which was nice to see. Using dual analogs sticks like a console first-person shooter felt intuitive for a game not originally made with a controller in mind. Although a couple of times the controller took on a life of its own, moving or firing without any input and on its own accord.
We had the least enjoyable experience with the World of Warcraft-like MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) Order & Chaos Online. Unlike N.O.V.A. 3 and Asphalt 7, Order & Chaos’ tutorial didn’t modify it’s instruction to cater to the Duo Gamer. Also there was no Duo Gamer button mapping in the options menu. MMORPG’s usually rely on a lot of menus and UI elements. This, of course, didn’t translate well to the controller. We found ourselves having an easier time fiddling through menus with the touch screen rather than the Duo Gamer. When in combat, instead of simply tapping an enemy to attack, players have to repeatedly press a button to cycle through baddies on screen.
Asphalt 7: Heat with the Duo Gamer controlled like a console racing title. Just like the other two compatible games, Asphalt easily recognized the controller. Driving worked fine with the controller and definitely was more enjoyable than tilting the iPad side-to-side and tapping the screen to brake or boost. One trend that we noticed in all three titles is that some menu options can’t be interacted with via the controller or that menus were a little difficult to use. For example, one menu button directly below another button should logically be accessible by just pressing down once, but instead players have to press right four times. Asphalt was otherwise an enjoyable experience with the controller.
We had some gripes about the controller itself. The controller felt like cheap plastic compared to a Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 controller, both of which cost significantly less than the Duo Gamer. After prolonged gameplay, the controller wasn’t exactly comfortable due to its lack of handles and pointy corners. There is also no way to turn off the Duo Gamer; you can only allow it to enter sleep mode after a few minutes.
The Duo Gamer works solidly most of the time as a dedicated controller for mobile games, but the steep sticker price and ability to only work with select Gameloft titles holds it back. Unless a player is dying to play iOS titles with a dedicated controller, they’re better off waiting for a price drop or more support for more games.
Consumers can pick up the Duo Gamer packaged with the controller, an iPad stand, instruction manual, two AA batteries and a pouch right now at select retailers. Note that it doesn’t come with any games.