With the release of iOS 7, many of us mobile gamers were excited for one feature in particular more than anything else – system-level controller support. This means that developers can now design or update their games with the Made for iOS (also known as MFi) API and then they will simply work with any controllers that are designed with the MFi program in mind. Sounds great right?
Well it is, until the cracks start showing, and this is where things get a bit complicated.
Let’s start things off with the device itself. The MOGA Ace Power is a controller shell that seats your device within its body and connects via the lightning port. It has a 1800 mAh battery within that can partially recharge your device during extended gaming sessions away from power. The MOGA Ace Power controller is compatible with iPhone 5/5s/5C and the 5th gen iPod touch and retails for $99.99 which is comparable to other controllers currently on the market.
Enough with the specs, how well does this thing work? This is that whole complicated part.
The Ace Power controller is difficult to review simply because there aren’t a huge amount of games that have good controller support, and the ones that do are somewhat difficult to find. To be clear this is not the controller manufacturer’s fault, but really a situation where Apple has dropped the ball. Right now there are about 190 games that have support, but many of them are just not great games overall, and feel like tech demos rather than fully featured titles.
You would think a feature like controller support would have a search filter or categorical listing on the App Store to make it easy to find games that work well with your near $100 purchase, but no. After doing some searching I found some fan-updated lists of controller-compatible games as well as an app or two that help me find others. This is a problem. Users should not have to download an app to find apps to use with their controller.
These games helped me see how fully realized iOS gaming can be when developers dedicate a bit of time to support controllers, and in some cases like Meltdown, the extended layout with analog triggers makes the game an entirely new experience. Dead Trigger 2 is simply divine to play vs the original touch screen controls, and games that were clearly designed with controller support in mind like Joe Danger Infinity make you reach for the shell by default rather than settle for touchscreen controls.
Some games have deeper features than others, (i.e menus are still touch controlled) and sadly games that are iCade compatible are not naturally MFi controller-friendly, which makes me sad that I won’t get to play Super Crate Box with my controller any time soon. Of course when I compare that minor drawback to being able to play Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic with a controller once again, I squee with delight. (yes. I squee. Deal with it. )
The candy colored buttons are responsive and once the device is locked into the shell it feels quite solid as a whole, but when compared to most console (PS3, Xbox 360) controllers it feels a bit less substantial. This might be intentional to keep the weight down for portability, but I would have liked at least a rubberized grip to make it feel a little more comfortable but as the product is, it works just fine.
If you are a paranoid iOS gamer and keep your iDevice in an Otterbox or Lifeproof case 24/7, keep in mind that most (if not all) sleeves and cases won’t work with the MOGA Ace Power. So you may feel a twinge of anxiety with your nude device staring at you from within the shell’s grip, exposed for the universe to see.
While I was testing the controller’s functionality I brought it with me to work so other geeky nerd types could try it out but I forgot my power cord at home. I spent a good 5 minutes panicking that I was low on battery when I remembered the built-in battery was fully charged from the night prior. I flipped on the charger switch, let it sit for a while, and my device went from an uncomfortable 20% to about 70% power. Normally I don’t use portable backup power, but now I am always sure to keep the controller charged and with me so I can get out of sticky situations. To me the battery feature is an added bonus, while others may feel it is not really necessary.
The only complaint I have with the “powered controller” design is that you can’t play it while the controller is charging. This may be a hardware limitation, but is infrequent enough that I have only run into it a couple of times over the last few weeks. Even leaving the shell put away for a few days without use it retained a full charge, so that has been a nice surprise as well.
(This may change over time as with any rechargeable product of course. )
So can I recommend the MOGA Ace Power controller? As a controller with battery backup power, and if we are taking the cost and current lineup of games out of the equation? absolutely. *Please note this is how I scored my review. It is not the fault of MOGA that the developers are slow to release controller compatible titles or that Apple isn’t really making it easy to find said titles, so I don’t feel comfortable knocking points from an accessory hindered by forces outside the scope of MOGA’s control.* (pun completely intended)
Putting it simply, once I played a game with full controller support, I don’t go back. If my Ace Power is not handy, I skip over Asphalt 8 or Joe Danger and play something like Marvel Puzzle Quest or Chaos Drive instead. For me, it is that much of a game changer.
As a controller with a $100 price tag and the current lineup of games? Somewhat. It really comes down to if you use those titles enough to justify the purchase. If you are a huge fan of iOS gaming, you won’t regret your purchase.
As the weeks go on, we are seeing more and more games with built-in controller support and they work like magic. My best scores in Meltdown and Joe Danger Infinity with the MOGA controller are miles ahead of my scores with touch controls. Asphalt 8 is an entirely different game compared to tilt controls. I wreck much less often now! So there’s that. There is no doubt in my mind that within a few months we will see a much healthier controller compatible game library, and with every new or updated game it just makes the controller feel like more and more of a smart investment.