For the moments that you regret not buying an Xperia PLAY.
I remember seeing this gadget a long time ago on blog sites and other websites but I didn't pay any attention because I only had the Xperia PLAY and frankly the best gaming smart phone on the market. However since our attention has extended to the Xperia S and Xperia ion Playstation Certified Smartphones, I decided to buy one of these and give it a test.
What better than to try it with the Xperia S, my most recent smart phone purchase. It's Playstation Certified but yet unlike the Xperia PLAY doesn't have a beautifully crafted controller hidden underneith. So ultimately I wanted to see firstly if this works with the Playstation games as that would be an absolute winner in my opinion. Then there is the catalog of Xperia PLAY games that I have on my Google account like; Sonic, SleepyJack, Grand Theft Auto, Inc, R-Type and even Shadowgun. I also wanted to try the EA games, the Gameloft titles too as these were always a little bit tricky with the game pad implementation.
For this to work, there is a few set up procedures which I am not confident are necessary if they were to better implement their programming and the tools avaialable. Like the fact that you have to download their app to connect the device and implement the drivers for the game pad. I guess this is for devices not made by Sony that don't have the drivers already built in. One of the new features of Ice Cream Sandwich is the implementation of USB devices and game pads, but Sony have this already with their Gingerbread software. Hence the reason that Arc, Arc S and Xperia S are all able to play games using a game pad whilst connected to the TV. No doubt you will have seen this on many of our YouTube videos in the past. Plus I also seem to have a problem where every time I connect the device, it has to be paired again. Minor inconvenience, however one that indicates a lack of quality.
Above is some screen shots showing you the app in action. I guess it does offer some functionality to it which benefits the user like being able to prevent screen idle and disabling the volume keys. Why would you need to disable the volume keys? Unfortunately the clamp that holds the devices together to give the Xperia PLAY design, well on some devices it is in the same place as the volume buttons and constantly pushes them down. Something that indeed happens on my Xperia S, so it is a useful function to have. The app also allows you to connect multiple controllers to one device for some multiplayer too. Remember Bomberman? imagine a cheeky 4 player game on your tablet using four of these controllers... would be pretty cool, wouldn't it?
So before we start testing the games, lets look at the hardware. As you can see from the pictures, the design idea is to physically can attach your 'generic' smart phone to create the Xperia PLAY form factor which for me is incredibly natural. It does include all of the buttons you would expect like the D-Pad, trigger buttons and action keys but there isn't the dual analogs, which I have to say is disappointing at the high price tag of the Gametel game pad. However I guess we can save the genius of the touch analogue pads to the premium and prestigious Xperia PLAY gaming experience. Besides, in confession there is only a handful of games that have successfully optimised for the analogues anyway.
So it has all the necessary buttons to emulate the traditional game pad found on retro consoles, meaning that it will enhance anyones retro gaming pleasure using emulators for Snes, Mega Drive, PS1 and some N64 games. This we know from the work we have done with the Xperia PLAY itself. Once connected via Bluetooth and the Gametel application, you will be able to map the buttons to your need and most good ones will already have the profiles for it anyway. As already mentioned in this review, the clamp does restrict the volume buttons on some devices. So if you did need R2 & L2, then it won't be a recommendation to use this pad.
So physically to hold it is comfortable but a bit fiddly. It also feels very plastically and cheap for the asking price tag of about £45. Little things ruin the build quality for me, like at the bottom where the charging LED's are, there is huge gaps where you can just see inside to the circuits. Wouldn't hurt to put some dark transparent plastic over the top to at least make it a bit more splash resistant? The actual buttons themselves definitely don't cry out the premium price tag this asks, they feel like one of those cheap plug n play consoles you get in toy shops. There is loads of Mega Drive ones kicking about if you don't know what I am talking about, just try the link. It's just very plasticy. A bit of aluminium or even a slimmer profile would have made this feel so much nicer. Their argument when I quizzed them, was that most console controllers are about £40 and this works with everything. However, whilst defending their premium price tag, I did point out that PS3 Dual shocks for example, have more buttons, dual analogue sticks and are built ten times better. There is nothing the Gametel pad offers which others do not have, except a clap to comfortably connect to a smart phone.
Anyway, I might be coming across as very negative so far and I apologise if this is the case. There is some great functionality that the Gametel pad offers and hence the reason I know carry mine with me when I use my Xperia S and would recommend any traditional smart phone user to have one. ti is compatble with all decent Android Smart phones, Tablets, iPhones and even PC's. It has been programmed to these different profiles and to change between them, you just have to use their PC software. You can use them alone as a traditional gamepad and use for multiplayer session with you and your mates.
When connected with my Xperia S, it appears to work exactly the same as any generic USB controller I use with my LiveDock accessory. So as already mentioned earlier, this is great for emulators. Those cheeky bits of software that they don't want us having, which allows us to play all of our childhood classics. You can just map out the keys to your liking. The controller also works with the menu, just like it does on the Xpeia PLAY, which does make browsing for roms and stuff a lot easier. So does this mean it works just like the Xperia PLAY game pad for Playstation Certified and Android games? The answer is... almost.
The official Playstation emulator PS Pocket does pick up the controller and works fine. I have been playing the recently added Ridge Racer Type 4 game and their is no issues at all. You don't have to map any buttons but you will have to disable the virtual pad, otherwise it gets in the way. As you don't have the analogue pads though, you are restricted to the D Pad and the lack of L2 and R2 might need some customizing for certain games. For example, titles like Rayman, Crash Bandicoot, Ridge Racer, Wipeout and Tekken will be grand. Titles like Gran Turismo, Twisted Metal and G-Police will require the extra inputs and so will need some messing about to make it comfortable. But the most enjoyable of PS classics, use the simpler game pad so no need to worry. It works great and anyone who has Xperia S, it is recommended that you get one of these.
As for the Market games. As a rule, most games which are Xperia PLAY optimised, you will find work with this game pad. I have a HUGE library of games that I have purchased for my Xperia PLAY and when downloaded to a non Xperia PLAY, they will (mostly) have these drivers still in the APK. A great addition to Gametel's website and app for your phone, is that they have a list of games which are tested and recommended for the game pad set up. Similar to what the PLAY launcher offers in a sense, although I am not sure how frequently it is updated as I have noticed myself a few that are not mentioned. I would hate to spoil the positive though and ruin it for you but any games that need analogues like Dead Space, Shadowgun or the Modern Combat games will not work. They need the analogue pads unfortunately which this pad does not offer.
Games from the Xperia PLAY that are optimised for the D-Pad and buttons though are perfect. Some like Sonic 4 and Reckless Getaway do work for game play but the menus do not work, so you have to touch your way to a game and then you can use the pads. Not a biggie at all, in fact I'm only mentioning it as I am being uber detailed in this review. You might even find that some games not Xperia PLAY optimised even work with this game pad. As some games have been designed for the USB game pad interface that comes with Honeycombe or Ice Cream Sandwich, will work with this game pad. One example is Inertia, which can be downloaded from Google Play Store.
I do really wish that this was made a bit better as (especially for the price) the build quality just isn't that great. The mechanism for attaching the smart phone to the pad feels like my £5 camera phone tripod I bought of ebay and I feel it won't last that long. It is slightly buggy as most times I connect to my Android device it has to be repaired but I am sure this is something that will be ironed out in future updates. I do think it is incredibly overpriced for what it is, I wouldn't mind paying the near £45 for such a bit of kit if ti felt like it was worth the money. I look forward to seeing a verison 2 of this with more premium materials, dual analogues and of course more games compatible with Ice Cream Sandwich USB game pad support.
I don't regret buying this at all as it is a great gadget but I only recommend this to those who will get their money worth out of it. Those people are mostly retro gamers with emulator addictions. :)