What makes iPad and iPhone cool is that they offer games the Xbox 360s and PSPs of the world straight-up can't -- they allow us to directly interact with games. Touch is an endlessly interesting way to play, and we see some of the most creative games in this space as a whole as a result of this control style.

Some studios, however, aren't willing to rethink design and offer virtual buttons to compensate for the lack of a physical controller. There's a lot of these kinds of guys out there, actually, which is probably why we're seeing a mini-boom in the 3rd party controller market.

The hottest device right now is 60beat's GamePad. Unlike many other controllers, it requires no technical voodoo. You simply just plug the male end of its luxuriously lengthy cord into your headphone jack, pick the controller in an in-game menu, and then get to work. It's really that simple; I haven't had a problem yet.

Big is the first thought that hit me when I picked it up, and it turned out that it was a hair too large for me. Remember the "Duke" Xbox controller? The GamePad is much smaller, but the issues it has because of its size are pretty similar. Both are inarguably useable devices, but they're not the best designed out there.

To get more specific: this thing has huge wings that, to use comfortably, require me to ride up on the neck of the thick plastic and push my outer palms more towards my chest than I'm accustomed to when using a controller. It's a weird angle -- it's like you're squeezing, as opposed to relaxing.

A few minutes of play is a valid cure for the initial awkwardness, but the grip I have to use with this thing makes its ten buttons -- four shoulders, four face, and two of those useless analog stick shoe-ins -- harder to reach than I'd like. I'm also not able to get my hands comfortably perfectly square with the sticks, which is putting some english on my movements.

Speaking of buttons, I'm digging the feedback. There's some meatiness to each and some ideal springiness to the shoulder buttons. The d-pad feels good, too, though I'm sure a purist could find something up with it.

The important thing is that, straight-up, the GamePad works. The response times seem just fine, everything is reasonably reachable, and it adds that real, meaningful layer of tactile feedback to the games. You'll lose game audio unless you connect a pair of headphones to the splitter the device ships with, but this is a forgivable offense considering the technology at use here.

Also, it makes the games that use it currently -- Bugdom 2 and Aftermath -- much, much better.

In Bugdom, for example, the GamePad eliminates all the dirty UI elements and allows you to play much like you would any other 3D platforming game. It fleshes out the nuance of specific points of design. Like, for example, the hovering mechanic. Also, it gives you significantly more control over the character, which makes touch jumps easier.

The latter applies to Aftermath. With the GamePad, it's much easier to move and do the things you want to do. Interestingly, the guys behind Aftermath tied camera controls to the face buttons, which caters to its run-and-gun, corridor style of play.

The GamePad might be bulkier than I'd like, but it gets the job done. The bonus here is that it obviously has an ability to make gameplay more potent. Developers will need to work with 60beat in order to get this controller in their games, though, so the future is as up in the air as our recommendation. If you start seeing a bunch of titles with compatibility, this might be something to spring on.

  • Travis Boudreaux

    To be honest, I'd purchase one right now if Square Enix would make this compatible with their games.  I'd love having a controler just to play the Final Fantasy's, the Chaos Rings', Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, etc. 

  • iSeptimus -

    Just add support for the Onlive universal bt controller. At least it is a nice controller to use.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I wonder why AFAIK it was never really explained how the analog sticks on the OnLive bluetooth controller are supposed to work with iOS, since AFAIK iOS has no bluetooth profile for game controllers and there are only some ugly iPhone 4S workarounds (Bluetooth 4.0).

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        It works via absolutely barfing ascii characters at the iPad for every degree of analog sensitivity.
        Here's some of the output: http://twitter.elihodapp.com/heres-me-doing-left-right-up-and-down-on-both

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the info! As a workaround it might not be pretty but watching some iPad OnLive previews it seems to be working well enough. I hope at least some game developers and accessory manufacturers will standardize around this or a similar solution for iOS gamepads (or Apple changes their mind about a proper Bluetooth profile).

  • R E

    I have to say, as a concept this really does look good. The demo video seems to show an odd mis-read around the 2 min mark, which would be my concern - does it misread and can it accurately handle many simultaneous button/stick presses without mistake or lag? Presumably it is generating some sort of tones that get interpreted and analysed by the iOS deivce. Does this hit the CPU much?

    But overall, definitely a million times better than on-screen controls!

    As an aside, I love my new iCADE so I can definitely vouch for hardware controllers.

  • Anonymous

    Forget it! If they can't make it work with all your games, who cares? IMO, at this point, it's nothing but a $50 paper weight! Kind of a hard-sell in any case, at this price, and for only 2 games! Though there is a sucker born every minute....   

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      You are aware that when the iCade launched it supported one (1) game, right? You've got to start somewhere.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah, well, with so much hardware being fed to us, and not knowing whether it'll actually ever get supported much, I'll just hold on to my money until see it IS catching on in a big way before I jump in impulsively and waste that much cash on something that is utterly worthless at this point in time. Maybe later, but right now, not so much......  

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        It seems strange to go out of your way to crap on it though, it's sort of like saying that "There's a sucker born every minute!" regarding the Nintendo 64 since it only launched with two games. Everything has to start somewhere, and there already seems to be more developer interest in the 60beat gamepad than there was following the iCade launch. I'd go as far as to say that this is likely a much better gamepad solution than the iCade (and similar devices) in general because it doesn't hijack all the text input options.
        I just don't get this whole knee-jerk smugness "suckers!!!" thing.

      • Anonymous

        Hey, I'm 51 years old and after all the money I've thrown away all these years on video game stuff, if there's anything I've learned, it's to not jump into 'iffy' products and have to be the first one to get it for the sake of being the first one to get it! If it gains in popularity and support, at that point, I would get one myself, sure, but, as it sits TODAY, for me, it's definitely NOT worth a $50 purchase NOW! Simple! That's my point. If that's 'crapping on it', to you, OK, fine. I'm not a little kid who's gonna get all excited and go out and buy a whole box of possibly useless junk anymore that I won't even be able to sell at a garage sale next Summer! Been there-done that. I want it to be a smart purchase for me WHEN I BUY IT! If I want to speculate on something in the future, I'll buy some shares of stock. And your comment on this 'knee-jerk smugness' thing is not only unwarranted, but pretty immature, dude, really! I thought you were above that, Eli.

        ________________________________
        From: Disqus
        To: bgbdrand@yahoo.com
        Sent: Thursday, January 5, 2012 2:23 PM
        Subject: [toucharcade] Re: A Look At 60beat's GamePad

        Disqus generic email template

        Eli Hodapp wrote, in response to bigrand1:
        It seems strange to go out of your way to crap on it though, it's sort of like saying that "There's a sucker born every minute!" regarding the Nintendo 64 since it only launched with two games. Everything has to start somewhere, and there already seems to be more developer interest in the 60beat gamepad than there was following the iCade launch. I'd go as far as to say that this is likely a much better gamepad solution than the iCade (and similar devices) in general because it doesn't hijack all the text input options. I just don't get this whole knee-jerk smugness "suckers!!!" thing. Link to comment

      • http://twitter.com/aagold3 Aaron G

        But, if everyone had this attitude, which you believe is correct and "smart", nothing would ever become "popular". Early adopters are great for growth among products, just like angel investors are great for businesses. Do your research, weigh the pros and cons of its potential success, and make the "right" decision for YOU.

        Besides, if you wait too long, you may miss out on all the fun of being the first on board for something great then showing it off/bragging to everyone else. I mean, that's all we've got nowadays in the social network society we live in, right?

      • Anonymous

        Like I said, why be the first on board if it costs $50 and offers nothing now? That's just stupid! I don't need bragging rights! I'm older and I don't need that anymore! The one thing you're right about is that, yeah, I've done my research and the pros and cons and made my decision that's right for me! Is there anything wrong with that? I made my decision and you think you can tell me I'm wrong with my opinion? That's the problem with forums these days. If my decision doesn't agree with you, you think you can just  tell me I'm wrong!!? Whatever... I could care less.....I just consider the source.   

      • http://twitter.com/aagold3 Aaron G

        I was tongue-in-cheek with the part about bragging rights. I didn't say your decision was wrong, just the reasoning you were using to get to that decision. It's quite a jaded/scarred perspective you have, and one that isn't really beneficial towards society as a whole.

      • Anonymous

        That's gotta be the weirdest response  I've ever heard! And sorry you have so many issues! Geez! No, my reasoning makes complete sense-why you can't understand that isn't my problem.. And PLEASE! How does the fact that I don't think a particular new product is worthy of a purchase for me when so far it isn't even supported widely enough, like I said, FOR ME-- to buy it, a jaded/scarred perspective that isn't beneficial to society?? I'm just gonna have to take your whole last post there as 'tongue in cheek', because if you're serious, you obviously need a check-up from the neck-up, buddy! Your response is completely off-the -wall!!

        ________________________________
        From: Disqus
        To: bgbdrand@yahoo.com
        Sent: Friday, January 6, 2012 8:52 AM
        Subject: [toucharcade] Re: A Look At 60beat's GamePad

        Disqus generic email template

        Aaron G wrote, in response to bigrand1:
        I was tongue-in-cheek with the part about bragging rights. I didn't say your decision was wrong, just the reasoning you were using to get to that decision. It's quite a jaded/scarred perspective you have, and one that isn't really beneficial towards society as a whole. Link to comment

      • Benjamin Rodriguez

           Aaron G  on g I guess I sort of agree with you because there that is why there are tons and tons of patents with no actual product being worked on at this point.

         @ bigand1  
         TA guys are a little touchy if you step on their shoes too much, most of them are pretty quick to get defensive to ignorance with set ignorance. Not that I'm defending you persay, just an obvious observation from tons of posts I've read.

        Idk about the product really, seems like a better idea then those suction cup pads on the iphone. Probably wouldn't buy it. But I'm 100% with Dale P's comment about Nintendo with the N64 being a flagship system. You cannot compare the two at all.

        But yeah, considering controllers go usually from 20 bucks sometimes cheaper, like dual shocks for pc or whatnot. I don't see why the high price point.

      • http://gplus.to/FaustsHausUK Dale P

        The Nintendo 64 was a flagship system for a company who had produced three other systems with excellent software support previously.

        This is a gamepad from an unknown company with zero major franchises behind it.

    • Anonymous

      I completely agree. A $50 peripheral SHOULD work with all the games I have downloaded, despite the myriad of different options in each. In fact while it's there I shouldn't even need to touch the controller, it should read my mind and activate the relevant commands automatically. While making me a sandwich.

      • Anonymous

        Amen to that!

        ________________________________
        From: Disqus
        To: bgbdrand@yahoo.com
        Sent: Thursday, January 5, 2012 2:11 PM
        Subject: [toucharcade] Re: A Look At 60beat's GamePad

        Disqus generic email template

        maniacfive wrote, in response to bigrand1:
        I completely agree. A $50 peripheral SHOULD work with all the games I have downloaded, despite the myriad of different options in each. In fact while it's there I shouldn't even need to touch the controller, it should read my mind and activate the relevant commands automatically. While making me a sandwich. Link to comment

  • http://twitter.com/nateshake nateshake

    Oops... should have read the rest of the article. Fixed it!

  • http://narziss.net Narziss

    Do you lose your capacity to listen to the game sounds/music by plugging this controller in?  that would be a huge issue obviously.

    • http://twitter.com/aagold3 Aaron G

      There's a splitter so you can plug headphones in as well. But yes, there will be no speaker sound available.

      • http://narziss.net Narziss

        Where does the splitter come out of?  I could see it working out decently if the splitter comes out of the controller, and you could plug your headphones into the controller to listen to the game's audio.

      • http://www.jshamblin.com J.Shamblin

        I believe the splitter is separate, meaning you plug the controller into the splitter and the splitter into the iPad/iPhone.

      • http://twitter.com/aagold3 Aaron G

        Yeah, from my understanding, it's like a standard audio headphones splitter. It plugs into the device, has two headphone slots coming out of it, and then you plug in two headphones, or in this case, a set of headphones and the controller.

  • Electrium

    Maybe it's just me, but doesn't this device take everything that is unique and interesting about touch gaming and throw it out the window...?

    If I'm going to be playing on a controller, I (personally) would rather just kick back and play on the TV with whatever gaming console. Yeah, yeah, some iOS games don't conform to proper touch-gaming design, but I know a lot of people who are interested in this *just* because they like the idea of a controller for their iPad. That's regressive and beyond silly to me.

    • http://www.jshamblin.com J.Shamblin

      I think you're missing the point entirely. It's not about keeping up with the newest touch technology or having a controller for the sake of having a controller. It's about playing great games regardless of the limitations of touch controls. Some games require a little more than just a tap, swipe,and tilt. It's not regressive or silly to own a controller if a controller works better than what the device can provide.

      Considering you can now play previous generation console games like GTA3 on the iPad, I think it's a smart choice to own a controller. The games are only going to get better for these devices.

      • http://twitter.com/aagold3 Aaron G

        It's great for people who want to spend a lot less on games. With Apple TV, it may all continue to make the iOS devices more competitive for home gaming. It should be interesting to see, if this takes off, if game prices/quality go up since the console markets would have this competitor.

      • Benjamin Rodriguez

        That's for people who are into the whole apple revolution though. Honestly when I walk into a house with tons of apple stuff it's a little overthetop. Apple tv to me seems a little reduntant from what I've experienced so far. Unless you're looking for porn shows which I found out a while ago Lol

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_354AK2DYNQPPYXJHMR2ZVWOLNI jerome

    This is hot. You don't have to buy the whole Xbox to enjoy the whole experience. I can't wait to try it.

  • Anonymous

    I think these guys should try to push a universalcinstruction set for all controllers, so decelopers can just use that and many other compatible controllers can work with games. I think this has to be the next step forward, someone has to do it.

    Anyways, Aftermath on iPad sounds nice. Hopefully there will be a universal build....please, please, please :)

  • Anonymous

    Useless analog stick shoe-ins? What exactly is that supposed to mean? Proper analog sticks is the best that could happen to all the terrible on-screen FPS controls on iOS (mouse and keyboard is best obviously but doesn't make sense for the device). The article fails to mention if the analog sticks work properly and calls them useless without reasoning which I find pretty poor. When I saw analog sticks on the picture when it was announced I was surprised sites didn't make a bigger deal of it since Bluetooth controller so far lacked the capability to use 2 analog sticks because of the crippled Bluetooth interface on iOS.

  • Anonymous

    I think that controllers for iOS games are a cool idea, but I see a potential problem. Almost every controller developed for iOS uses its own unique technique to function. So what that could mean is developers may only support one controller, leaving everyone else with some other controller unsupported. Unless of course the developer adds all the coding for all the controllers- though I doubt that very many would bother. There needs to be some standardization- I'm looking at you Apple.

    • Benjamin Rodriguez

      doesn't apple get more money in the long run though without standardization?

      • Anonymous

        Nope. If they standardized it, Apple would likely have some sort of certification (like "Made for iPod"), and they'd get money for every certified controller sold. So it would actually be beneficial to them, because they'd be getting a cut of the money- right now, they aren't.

      • Benjamin Rodriguez

        ah I thought they got money for any product to be used in conjunction with the apple product, not like licensing fee's, but just to be able to work on a product to be used for an apple product in the first place

  • http://twitter.com/niksluijs Nik Sluijs

    I'll stick to the iControlPad for now. Works with all iCade games, with emulators on my iPhone, wirelessly with my Mac games and emulators.

    A corded controller that's only compatible with two games and cuts my sound (or comes with a splitter that will get lost) feels like a step back.

  • http://twitter.com/snielsen42 Spencer Nielsen

    I just added 60beat GamePad support to Caster/Caster HD. You can see how it performs in a video I posted here:

    http://www.aorensoftware.com/blog/2012/01/06/ios-caster-now-has-60beat-gamepad-support/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=3302127 Kevin Hanson

    If they add support for GTA3 and a few other games, I'll buy this thing right away... and an iPad 3...

  • Anonymous

    One more feather in the 60beat's cap. I applaud you and any other developer who makes use of this budding technology!

  • http://twitter.com/ivanovichGames Ivanovich Games

    Our game Katana Jack! was sent to Apple including 60beat support! It's a really cool controller.