Admittedly, it doesn’t take a lot to make me laugh. Whenever I hear folks — including some so-called gaming analysts — proclaim that tablets and smartphones have killed dedicated portable game systems such as the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, for example, I really can’t help but chuckle. Well, that and question their experience playing portable games. I mean, tablets and smartphones are great for casual gaming fare. But to truly be the "be-all, end-all" in the portable gaming space, you need to be able to comfortably handle every gaming genre. And while today’s tablets and smartphones definitely have the processing and graphics power to handle any sort of game that dedicated portable consoles can, they’re woefully deficient in handling a large chunk of genres that make up the video gaming pantheon. The reason? Tablets and smartphones — by design — do not have dedicated joysticks and buttons. Yes, they can simulate virtual buttons onscreen. But the lack of tactile feedback means it's tough to consistently pull off moves in games that require exact precision. Case in point, just look at the abomination that is the tablet version of Monster Hunter, which doesn’t even look like the Monster Hunter everyone loves due to a control scheme that’s been watered down for tablets. Even Capcom’s excellent fighting games lose something in the transition to the tablet and smartphone space.
Which brings us to Ten One Design’s Fling controller. Designed for games that have virtual joysticks, the Fling latches on to the surface of your iPad to provide you an actual tactile controller that replicates a more traditional control stick. The idea is to basically align it with the virtual joystick of a game so the Fling’s lower nub can touch the screen in your stead. The feel of the Fling itself is surprisingly good. Thanks to its coiled design, the Fling provides pretty nice feedback with varying levels of tension depending on how hard you push. It’s definitely a marked improvement from a virtual joystick. It also isn’t permanently stuck on your tablet also means you can take it out anytime.
One downside to the fling is that it covers part of your screen, though it isn’t quite an issue for big tablets such as the full-size iPads. The fact that is uses transparent material also helps. Still, it suffers from some key drawbacks. At the top of the list is that it doesn’t work well with all games, especially if its size doesn’t exactly match that of a game’s virtual controller. This is especially an issue for games like Gun Bros. where your movement speed changes depending on how hard you push the joystick (as opposed to games where your speed is constant regardless of how hard you push). In my case, I could only get the entire range of movement with about half of the joystick while the other half does not completely extend to the extent needed for full movement. I had the same issue when playing Street Fighter X Tekken, which requires precise joystick movements as well. Depending on how hard you push the joysticks, the Fling also has a tendency to slide, requiring you to re-adjust its placement again to get the required accuracy. Depending on your activity, the Fling can also leave some grime on your screen, though I was able to wipe it out. Lastly, the price is quite high given its size and lack of electronic components at $19.95 for one Fling or $29.95 for a two-pack.
Eventually, the need for a Fling boils down on how much you value actual tactile feedback and whether the games you play work with it well. Unfortunately, the latter requires a degree of trial and error so you’ll pretty much have to take a leap of faith to find out if the Fling works for the games you have.
FINAL RATING: 3 stars out of 5
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