The iPad’s touch screen is a wonderful thing. Sometimes though I wish it had a few face buttons — maybe it’s just because of my gaming history.
Over the last few months I’ve invested in a few gadgets that have added this physical element to various games and applications I use on the device. Similar to my quandary over using the iPad as a Photo Frame, the right peripheral can make all the difference. Here are my top 10 iPad and iPhone gaming peripherals:
1. Ten One Design Fling Game Controller ($13.20 on Amazon)
This stick-on controller is an excellent and versatile way to convert a touch screen virtual joystick to something physical. I was a little suspect of the idea before trying it myself, but within a few minutes I found that my favorite games were suddenly much easier to play.
Having got used to the controller I have since spent a lot of time downloading virtual joystick apps. Whereas I found these hard to control without physical feedback, with the Fling controller they played just like a real arcade game. Because you can move the controller to fit each game you can also play in both portrait or landscape mode.
2. Enhance Tablet Touch Screen Gaming Joystick ($9.99 on Amazon)
The rolling action of the gaming joystick is a different design to the Fling controller. Although not quite as versatile, its real joystick grip makes the games feel more like a real arcade experience. The underside of the stick attaches to the iPad or iPhone with a sucker and is padded to avoid scratches.
You have to learn how much pressure to apply so as not to pop the controller from the device, but once you have this down it really is a good way to play iPad and iPhone games. And again you can move the joystick to suit different games and different screen orientations.
3. 60 beat GamePad ($49.95 on Amazon)
This is an ingenious and simple solution to the lack of buttons on the iPad and iPhone. By simply plugging the device into the headphone socket you have an instant games machine. It matches the 360 and PS3 configuration so it is easy to familiarize yourself with.
The downside is that games have to be compatible with the controller to use it, rather than the stick-on controllers that work with any game. But with this library of supported games steadily growing this is the best way to get a genuine console experience from your iPad.
4. Bluecell Button Gaming Controls ($3.99 on Amazon)
These stick on buttons are slightly less sophisticated than the Fling or Gaming Joystick option, but their simplicity is their strength. A modular design means you can place the buttons where any iPad or iPhone game controls are and have instant physical feedback.
I’m a big fan of the newly released Pinball Arcade app on the iPad. It’s the first time real pinball tables have come to Apple’s device. The lack of a physical flipper button is solved perfectly by placing a couple of these stick on buttons in the appropriate places. In fact my very next play of Theater of Magic proved their worth as I hit a new high score.
5. iCade Arcade Cabinet for iPad ($69.99 on Amazon)
The iCade peripheral is well know for the iPad (and also works for the iPhone) but what is less well know is the steadily increasing range of games that support it. Although the excellent iMame app was pulled from the store shortly after its release (due to copyright issues I think) there are plenty of other apps that make use of this perfect Arcade setup.
The two I’ve spent the most time on have been the free Atari Greatest Hits app which grants access to buy various Atari classics like Asteroids, Centipede, and Battlezone. It feels so odd playing these games over and over without having to pump coins in.
6. Atari Arcade ($56.99 on Amazon)
This is similar to the iCade offering but takes up less space. This may sound like a small thing but I have found it a bit of a quandary where to store the iCade when I’m not using it – it’s just so big. The Atari Arcade is essentially just a plinth to sit your iPad in so can be stored away much easier.
It supports the same range of games as the iCade device although is technically designed to work with the Atari apps. It also works with other Bluetooth enabled games in the app store.
7. Pinball Magic ($19.99 on Amazon)
Having got into pinball on the iPad this little device for the iPhone was hard to resist. You slot your iPhone into it to turn it into the screen of a pinball simulator. Although again it is a little gimmicky, it actually works very well and is a testament to the flexibility of Apple’s phone.
However, with the small screen it pales next to an iPad running Pinball Arcade. With a bit of luck we will have a device like this for the iPad. Dual that with a decent pinball app (there are a few to choose from) and you have the makings of a great home pinball setup.
8. ColorStudio HD iMarker ($7.59 on Amazon)
The iPad and iPhone’s capacitive screen is great for multi-touch game play, but does mean you can’t use a stylus for more accuracy. The ColorStudio iMarker fixes this by providing a crayon styled stylus that can be used on the screen rather than your finger.
This is another iPad augmentation that sounds like a gimmick but for kids actually works very well. Being able to practice their pencil skills electronically got my kids much more into drawing and coloring. It also kept their sticky fingers off the screen, which is no bad thing either.
9. Jackpot Slot Machine ($8.58 on Amazon)
A little like the Pinball Magic device, this peripheral turns your iPhone into a slot machine. Just slide it into the slot provided and download the related app and you have a fruit machine ready to go.
I would have liked to see more variety in the machines offered, and also wondered what other uses the pull-arm may be useful for in terms of iPhone games, but generally had quite a bit of fun with this.
10. Ten One Design Fling Mini Game Controller ($23.37 on Amazon)
These are the mini-versions of the iPad Fling controller. They work in the same way and can be positioned to suit any application because of the sucker attachment style. Once attached you simply slide the controller around the surface of the iPhone or iPod touch to control the game.
It’s a combination of simplicity and their physical feedback that makes then work so well. Not only can you feel where the joystick is without looking, they also spring back to the center when not being touched. Perfect for a whole range of iPod and iPhone games.