The age of handheld console gaming has seen a decline since late 2011 with most gamers turning to games on consoles and PCs. With the ever-increasing computing power of mobile devices, the fate of handheld consoles seems to be sealed. However, Gamevice, a gaming controller made for your smartphone, may very well be the bridge back to the age of handheld gaming. Gamevice is a dedicated iPhone accessory, so no cigar this time, Android fanboy.
Unboxing and First Impressions
Gamevice comes in a nicely sealed box, containing the controller and a simple instruction book. It was a pleasant surprise that the device was fairly simple to use. Attaching and setting up the Gamevice on your iPhone would take less then 15 seconds as it does not require installation of any software. It simply connects via Lightning Port and you are good to go.
Thanks to its ergonomic design, Gamevice sits comfortably in the hands of any player, and its housing also holds the smartphone securely. It did not feel as though the phone was going to fall out anytime during the course of intense gaming. Gamevice contains a speaker which faces directly to the player, which allows the audio of the game being played is better presented to the players. This is in contrast with iPhone’s speakers which are located at the bottom of the device, pointing away from the user during landscape use in some games.
There was also enough weight to make it feel like a handheld console. While it definitely did not feel cheap in the hand, the combined weight of the Gamevice and the iPhone is heavier than a PlayStation Portable (PSP). Oh yes, Gamevice comes with a headphone jack and a charging port as well. Charging, listening to the music and gaming at the same time becomes a reality (hurray iPhone 7 & 8 users).
Gamevice is compatible with most games and thanks to the list of compatible games found on their website, we saved the time of scouting for compatible games on the app store. We installed and played several different games with different genres to give Gamevice a spin, namely:
- Dead Trigger – FPS
- Lego Star Wars – RPG
- Reaper – Sidescrolling RPG, Indie
- Linage 2 – MMORPG
- Asphalt 8 – Racing
- Sonic The Hedgehog – Arcade
The Gamevice is compatible with the iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Other versions support larger iPad models, including the iPad Pro and all iterations of the iPad Mini. For compatibility’s sake, I tried the Gamevice on an iPhone 6S for this review.
First Person Shooters
We start our journey with Dead Trigger, a zombie First Person Shooter (FPS) game. This is where Gamevice really shines as a game controller. Having the trigger buttons and the analog sticks made playing FPS games on a smartphone a console dream come true. Using the trigger buttons on Gamevice to shoot and aim really brought me back to my younger days of endless Halo and Call of Duty gameplay. In contrast, it was really underwhelming to go back to tapping on the touchscreen to play Dead Trigger. There was no way to shoot aside from “auto fire” which really took away from the experience of playing an FPS game. With our (rather fat) thumbs out of the way, it allowed us to see a lot more of the screen as well, allowing the game graphics to take our breath away.
Role Playing Games
Next on was Lego Star Wars. With Gamevice, it really brought back memories when I was so absorbed that I could complete an entire game title in one sitting clicking away at my GameBoy Advance. Using the Gamevice brings back the classic, physical button-mashing aspect of a handheld console. On the note of nostalgia, while playing Sonic the Hedgehog and Reaper using Gamevice, the tactile response I got was reminiscent of my younger days, navigating through its different levels with actual physical controls, compared to endlessly tapping on a flat glass screen.
On the other hand, for games like Lineage 2, having a game controller feels like an overkill. Lineage 2 offers an auto- play system where the character will fight monsters automatically, without the need for any player engagement. Many other mobile Mass Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) also offers a similar system. If there only is an auto-play system, using a controller for such games is not the most engaging experience in the world.
Gamevice is also not very optimal for racing games. Many mobile racing games like Asphalt 8 enable players to use the phone’s gyro-control, where you can tilt your phone to steer. Hence using the analog stick to control your vehicle takes out some fun, unless the player stays on gyro-control while still using Gamevice. In addition, for Asphalt 8, activating nitro and break is quite simple where a simple tap of either left or right of the screen hence making Gamevice feel underutilized.
Gamevice has transformed the feeling of gaming on a smartphone to that of a handheld console. Gamevice also prevents you from feeling the heat of your phone, which can be uncomfortable for some people. At the same time, the back of the phone is also exposed while using Gamevice. This allows the phone to have better cooling with improved air circulation.
Another big plus point is the fact that post-gaming fingerprints and grime are completely eradicated while using Gamevice. This is an absolute must for people who love to really get into their games, while also making the game look more engaging without all the oily smudges in the way.
Gamevice’s buttons are also positioned well, with no need to stretch fingers. Along with the physical buttons, the touch screen can still be used as an additional control, providing the smartphone with both a touch-screen and a set of analogue controls. This is somewhat similar to what the Nintendo Dual Screen (NDS) offered, a gamechanger for handheld consoles, with the PSP Vita following suit in late 2011.
Final Thoughts and Verdict
Gamevice definitely enhances one’s smartphone gaming experience while dropping a huge nostalgia bomb to 80s and 90s kids like myself. With the implementation of physical controls to the games, it not only makes gaming easier but also more enjoyable. However, it does not completely suit every type or genre of game (as mentioned above). Despite this, the Gamevice remains a solid accessory to add if you intend to play FPS or RPG games.
For most users, gaming on a smartphone is more to kill time rather than a serious hobby. Hence, using a controller with your smartphone might be seen as a bit of an overkill. The other handheld console out there in the market now would be the Nintendo Switch which goes for about $499. It would not be fair to say that they are substitutes for each other. However Gamevice definitely makes a cheaper alternative for a Christmas Present for any gamer at heart.
To end off, what we see is a huge potential waiting for the gaming industry to realise. Gamevice might be very the solution to the dying scene of handheld consoles. If app developers were to develop games with Gamevice in mind, i.e. utilizing every button offered, it makes getting the device more essential then it already is.
Gamevice is now available at Apple’s exclusive retailer, Nubox at SRP SGD$139.