updated 04:30 am EDT, Sun May 20, 2012
MacNN goes hands-on with the Fling Joystick for iPad
The Fling Joystick for iPad is one of the more interesting accessories available for the iPad and other tablets. With the graphics capabilities of tablets approaching console quality, the biggest hurdle facing in-depth gaming on capacitive touchscreen devices is the lack of physical controls. Similar comments were of course leveled at the iPhone when it first launched back in 2007 without a physical keyboard, but those concerns soon evaporated. However, the volume selling games on both iPhone and iPad tend to be the casual games that rely on simple touch gestures. Yet, there are a number of first person shooters that use virtual single dual stick controls that look appealing, but aren't quite as popular.
Unfortunately, most of the FPS titles are not often sighted in the top ten or top 20 games on the iTunes App Store in the longer term, despite the often jaw-dropping visuals on offer. Infinity Blade II, Shadowgun, Dead Space, Nova III and others are among the first games users who want to show off their iPad will show to their friends. Despite this, and the relative gaming depth that they offer the more hardcore gamers out there, this type of gaming seems to have been held back by the lack of physical controllers. In our experience, playing FPS and RPG games on the iPad can just be awkward and a bit off-putting.
Being fans of the Sony PS Vita, with its dual analog controls and quad-core graphics power, we have been keen to give the Fling Joystick for iPad a go. How does it compare to a real analog joystick seen on portable gaming consoles? Does it work as advertised? Does it offer the type of gaming experience that many of us crave on tablets? Is it worth the $20 asking price for one joystick, or is there any point shelling out for a $30 twin pack?
The Fling Joystick comes nicely presented with some quick-start instructions and a nice soft bag to stow the joystick when not in use when on the road. It attaches to a tablet using two suction cups, while its 'flexible engineering resin' spirals and capacitive touch point stretch out across the touchscreen. Some touch screen games allow the player to control where the virtual joystick appears on the screen, so for these games, it doesnít matter where you place it. For games that position the virtual joystick in a fixed position, the Fling Joystick will need to be placed on that spot. Its attractive crystal see-through look was deliberately designed does not impede the view of the device.
For most games, we found that just one of the Fling Joysticks is sufficient. Many dual-stick type first person shooter games that utilize a second virtual joystick to offer players the ability to look left and right as well as up and down by letting a player swipe across the screen arenít well suited. While a second Fling controller allows a user to look in all directions in game, it doesnít provide the full range of viewing possibilities, only moving part of the way in any direction. Keeping our second hand free to swipe and shoot was much more preferable and is in fact the recommended option for FPS and RPG titles according to Ten One Design themselves.
That does not mean that having one Fling Joystick is one too many as well. In fact, we highly recommend the Fling Joystick for tablet gamers on the go or at home. It is absolutely the next best thing to having a physical joystick built into a tablet itself. Its functionality is excellent, with its responsiveness the equivalent of using your own finger to do the swiping. Surprisingly, it actually makes a tablet a whole lot easier to hold for gaming purposes by creating a purchase point on the device and helping with leverage. It succeeds in making in-depth gaming on the iPad much more appealing.
Games that we tested the Fling on included Galaxy On Fire, FIFA 12, Shadowgun, and Dead Space, among a few others. All of the games we used the joystick on offered a much improved gaming experience overall, although there were some limitations. In Dead Space, for example, the virtual joystick offers the ability to both walk and run. In our testing, we found that the Fling was not optimized to be able to reach further to move from walking to running. However, games like Galaxy on Fire, FIFA 12 and Shadowgun were much more fun to play, with the Fling offering much more precise control. Ten One Design also recommend a number of games that they believe work particularly well with the Fling Joystick on their website.
Ten One Design has posted some FAQs about the accessory on its website. One or two concerns that sprang to mind as we were using the device is whether or not it could scratch your tabletís screen. During our hands-on it did not leave any trace of a mark, despite pressing quite hard on it at times. The company also suggests using it without a screen protector, particularly if you find that your screen protector is a bit Ďsticky.í They do, however, warn against letting any grit or dirt get between the touch point and the display, as this will almost certainly result in a damaged screen. While unlikely to happen, it may pay to double-check your Fling and tablet screen are wiped down before use.
The Fling Joystick for iPad and other tablets is not 100 percent perfect, but it is offers a much better in-depth gaming experience on the iPad than is possible without it. Among our criticisms, we found that that the Flingís suction cups can slide across the screen if you get a bit too enthusiastic when playing. Obviously, a purpose built joystick as seen on the PS Vita is unquestionably a better proposition overall, particularly as it includes two purpose-built analog sticks. But if you donít want to own a tablet and a PS Vita, you will find the Fling makes gaming on a tablet a lot more user friendly, and above all, a lot more fun.
By Sanjiv Sathiah