Review: MOGA Controller is a solid effort to bring real controls to a touchscreen device
The mobile market is constantly growing and evolving. What once was relegated to playing games like Snake or matching three like-colored jewels together, is now dominated by games that strive to market themselves as console-like experiences. These games, as great as they are, always share one, same problem: terribly touchscreen controls. I recently had the chance to go hands-on with a few Smartphone controllers, which aim to replace those terrible swipe controls of old, and replace them with something more familiar and undoubtedly more precise.
The Duo Gamer presented itself as a worthy controller which was built to closely resemble a console controller, dual analog sticks and all, however it came with a small caveat: it works only with Gameloft apps and games. Power A's MOGA Controller (or Mobile Gaming Controller) is almost an inverse of the Duo Gamer in many aspects. Does it provide gamers with that familiar control scheme that they've been craving for?
What you're getting
Not much is required to get your phone up and running with the MOGA. You have the unit itself, which comes in all black with orange lettering on it and batteries which power it. At first glance, the controller resembles the color schemes and even look of the OnLive controller, which certainly isn't a negative, it's just odd that they didn't try to differentiate it a bit, considering the two companies are in no way related.
The MOGA is a small, stylish controller which has an ergonomic shape that rests comfortably in your hands. The middle of the controller flips up, which then houses your smartphone. It's a smart design that fits easily in your pocket, it's just a shame that it doesn't somehow close with your phone inserted into the MOGA. It has four face buttons, two triggers, and a start and select button. Instead of real analog sticks, the unit has two analog nubs and no d-pad present.
The right MOGA audience
The reason I stated that the MOGA is almost an inverse of the Duo Gamer is due to a few factors. First and foremost, it only works on Android devices. Power A has stated that it does want to eventually bring the MOGA to iOS devices and is in talks with Apple to make it happen. The MOGA also isn't tied down to one single developer. While Gameloft does once again make up a majority of the available titles that are supported by the MOGA right now (with N.O.V.A. 3, Dungeon Hunter 3 and the Dark Knight Rises just to name a few), there are over 40 games supported on the device such as SEGA's Virtua Tennis Challenge, Duke Nukem 3D, Sonic CD and Need For Speed Most Wanted.
This undoubtedly will make the MOGA far more appealing than any other smartphone controller, thanks to its ever growing list of supported games. It's also easy to keep track of what games are available and supported by the MOGA thanks to the Pivot App. The app also allows you to then immediately purchase, download and launch all supported apps.
Playing with the MOGA
Its sleek and compact design isn't worth nothing if it doesn't actually control well. I had a few varying experiences while playing the various games I had downloaded on the Samsung Galaxy S3. For example, playing N.O.V.A. 3 proved once again how much better the game can be with buttons dedicated to each action, such as reloading, aiming and lobbing grenades. However it was apparent, especially when playing N.O.V.A. 3, just how important a d-pad is as well.
Changing weapons, which was easily done by pressing left and right on the d-pad on the Duo Gamer, now required you to hold Select and press either of the triggers. Granted, it's not a huge issue, but one that definitely takes time getting used to, rather than the instantly recognizable control scheme the Duo had. Also the fact that you now can't actually click the analog sticks in means in order to sprint, you had to double tap forward, resulting in a few instances where I started sprinting towards the enemy, even though I was just dodging their incoming fire.
It also takes a while to get used to playing platformers like Sonic CD without a d-pad present. The analog nubs aren't terrible by any means, and they get the job done, but they're a bit resistant. Still, I'll take these controls over touchscreen controls any day.
With all that said, after a solid 10 minutes of getting used to the altered control scheme presented by the MOGA, I got used to them and was playing all of the supported games rather effortlessly.
The bottom line
There are many good things about the MOGA that clearly outshine some of its faults. A lack of a d-pad does make playing some games harder, but given its compact design, I understand some things had to be cut. The fact that (so far) it's only available on Android devices will limit its audience size quite a bit. However with all this, it's undeniable that the MOGA is still a well designed, easy to use controller, which seems to have a bright future with an ever expanding list of supported games, that are all easily accessible through the Pivot App.
At $49.99, you really can't go wrong with the MOGA, especially if you're looking to take your mobile gaming beyond touchscreen controls.