Samsung has revived the spirit of Sony’s Xperia Play phone with the GamePad, a joypad peripheral and Mobile Console, a game-centric app store.
The chunky accessory comes on like a mutant PS1 DualShock with three d-pads and six buttons, four up on the front and two shoulders. Titles available to gamers from launch include Android gaming mainstays such as Need for Speed Most Wanted, Asphalt 8, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour and Prince of Persia: The Shadow and the Flame.
Samsung says that a total of 35 dedicated games will be available from launch and promises more throughout 2014, but will Final Fantasy VII be among them?
Probably not. Joking aside, the GamePad has many things in its favour that Sony’s ill-fated gaming phone didn’t.
Optimised for high-end Android 4.3 Jelly Bean phones you’ll be able to enjoy games that are perhaps closer to the current gen of consoles than the Xperia Play’s retro leanings could muster.
The processing power of phones these days coupled with Google’s support for OpenGL ES 3.0 makes means that you’re more likely to enjoy games like Dead Trigger and Minecraft running more smoothly with the added bonus of not having your thumbs get in the way.
You’ll be able to plug an array of phones into the GamePad dock, up to and including 6.3-inch phablets like the Galaxy Note 3. Your phone will communicate with the controller either via Bluetooth (3.0 required) or NFC, if your phone has it.
While this means that in theory you could slot in an HTC One or any other large phone, the Mobile Console app is only available through Samsung Apps and therefore GamePad will only really work with Samsung devices.
Thanks to HDMI or AllShare screen mirroring you’ll be able to sit back and play games on your TV screen as well as when you’re on the move, although it seems unlikely that casual gamers will want to do this and hardcore gamers might have already thrown their hat into the PS4/Xbox One ring.
We’ve seen attempts to consle-ify phones in the past and at times the hardware just didn’t feel up to it. As well as the titles on offer and the power of phones two years ago just not being as impressive, peripherals felt a little insubstantial.
Samsung’s GamePad boasts a durable steel frame and at least looks more like an actual game controller than, say, Fructel’s Gametel pad. The positioning of the ‘Play’ button in the centre, used to launch the Mobile Console store, even appears to mirror that of an Xbox 360 controller’s home button.
Whether or not the GamePad bridges the casual-hardcore mobile gaming gap or goes the way of the Xperia Play remains to be seen.
A UK price and a launch date for the GamePad haven’t been announced, but Samsung says it will be on the shelves in the coming weeks.
Samsung GamePad Specifications
- Size: 137.78 x 86.47 x 31.80mm
- Weight: 195g
- Connectivity: Bluetooth® v3.0, NFC
- Battery: Rechargeable, 400mAh
- OS compatibility: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (Optimised for Android 4.3)