Mobile phones are being geared up to do everything – they want to give us directions, play doctor (the medical kind) and also allow us to make calls, browse social media and all those commonplace bits. Gaming on phones has also been on the rise in recent years and manufacturers and third-party peripheral makers are starting to take note. That’s how we wound up with something like Logitech’s PowerShell, an addition that turns your iPhone 5, 5s or iPod touch into a little handheld game console with a collection of traditional buttons for you to use to get your game on.
What’s in the box?
At least, that’s the theory but we’ll get to that in a moment. Unlike other cases of its type, the PowerShell is a single unit that lets the iPhone slot into place so it can take over your controlling needs. It’s also fitted with an additional 1,500mAh battery because, let’s face it, nobody wants to game on the game and completely drain a battery in the process. So far, so good.
Also packaged with the PowerShell are a USB charging cable (microUSB, for attaching to the controller itself), an adapter for an iPod touch and a headphone extender. We’ve ticked most of the boxes up till this point and the stiff-but-slim design of the controller certainly lends itself to portability. It’s not too heavy and it won’t be taking up much space. So why are we feeling a bit averse to Logitech’s add-on?
It might be because the buttons are hard on the fingers after extensive use, something that this controller format is known for (witness ‘Gamer’s Thumb’ from back in the days of the NES) and which comes from having to hammer the buttons to get a response onscreen. The D-pad and face buttons are too small to be really comfortable, though the controller itself is wonderfully grippable. But that’s not it at all.
With the Logitech PowerShell, mobile gamers are getting four face buttons and pause button on the right-hand side of their iPhone screen, as well as a D-pad on the left with two shoulder buttons topping the whole setup. If they’re not in these positions, you’re holding it upside down.
That seems to be the complete roster but any gamer will tell you that there’s something rather major that didn’t make the guest list. That something is an analogue stick or, ideally, two of the little buggers. There is a lengthy list of iOS 7 games that the PowerShell supports and while the existing control setup is fine for almost any game that is playable in 2D – like side-scrolling fighters or platformers – the moment that you dip into the world of 3D games the Logitech PowerShell becomes… pretty useless.
Okay, it’s not that bad but it’s still a frustration that you don’t need. Bashing through a few levels of Sonic or Rayman: Fiesta Run is smooth enough with the PowerShell attached but jump over to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Star Wars: The Old Republic or that golden oldie, the original Tomb Raider and the need for analogue is very, very apparent.
Granted, these are extreme examples but the PowerShell’s lack of analogue support means that any 3D game is a chore to play. Even Tomb Raider, from back in the heady days of the PlayStation One, benefits from having two analogue sticks. One should control movement, the other sorts out the camera. Having neither here means that you’re better off fiddling with the touchscreen controls, which makes using the PowerShell superfluous. That’s never a good thing when you’re looking to capitalise on the gaming market.
That isn’t to say that Logitech’s PowerShell is a pointless purchase but those looking to recreate the old PlayStation 2 days with some time spent with CJ chasing that damned train are going to go away from this one very, very frustrated. If you’re just planning on bumbling around with 2D games that don’t require manipulating a camera, then the PowerShell should serve but even then you’re going to be nursing sore thumbs by the time the battery runs flat. But it’s simple to set up, easy to transport and adds some extra mileage to your battery. It’s just not built for serious (or intermediate) gaming.