Jul 8, 2011
Recently, I was offered the chance to try out a new product from the folks at ThinkGeek.com. It’s a small attachment for your Android or iOS device called the JOYSTICK-IT, a solid aluminum arcade stick that you can easily attach and remove by suction cup without causing any harm to your screen. It’s designed to give you more tactile control over your touch-screen based games.
The way it works is through the spongy, wire mesh at the bottom of the stick, completing the circuit between the capacitive touch-screen and your finger tips. By rocking the stick in any direction, the mesh touches those points of the screen and works just as well as if you weren’t using the stick at all. It’s a simple concept that works pretty darn well with any game that offers a directional pad/analog stick control scheme. Where the JOYSTICK-IT really shines, though, is old-school, arcade games — Pac-Man, Frogger, etc. For reviewing purposes, I used the JOYSTICK-IT with a couple of my old favorites: Meganoid, Grow and a few classic console emulators.
Even though Meganoid only offers left and right controls on the directional pad, the JOYSTICK-IT easily fits between them. Grow is a little tougher, however. It was actually a little harder to dial in the precision controls required to outmaneuver some of the faster fish. In this case, I actually preferred using the touch-screen as is, completely negating the desired effect of the JOYSTICK-IT. As for the emulators I tried, it certainly gave me back the level of control I’ve been missing, although it’s hard to say it was an improvement over more traditional, hardware based directional pads and buttons.
The main downfall of the JOYSTICK-IT is that, while the tiny suction cup has quite a bit of grip to it, it tends to pop right off if you get too aggressive with it. Because of this, it’s hard for me to recommend the JOYSTICK-IT as anything more than a gimmick, a pure novelty. You’ll also want to be wary of games with “floating” controls as they tend to center where ever the JOYSTICK-IT first touches the screen. If you can, set the controls to a permanent spot to get the most out of the JOYSTICK-IT.
At $17.99 for the mobile phone version, while the construction feels solid, the price is way too high for what little it offers. You can buy a larger version for tablets at $24.99 (or get a 2 pack for $39.99). I haven’t tried the larger version, but I can assume the larger surface area of the suction cup would make for a much better grip. Either way, it just doesn’t appear worth the money, to me.
The idea and concept behind the JOYSTICK-IT is a sound one, even if the execution leaves me a bit wanting. While it’s still attached, it’s a great little device that really gives you back that feeling of control you’ve been missing from most touch-screen based games. Everything from dual analog stick shooters to classic arcade games and emulators for console games of yesterday greatly benefit from having this little gizmo seated firmly between your fingers. But, then, as soon as you get into it, it pops right off and you’re left back at square one. My advice is to avoid the JOYSTICK-IT. Again, great idea, but not enough improvement over existing conditions to make it truly useful.
You can find the JOYSTICK-IT for iPhone/Android handsets for $17.99 by going to this page on ThinkGeek.com while the iPad/Android tablet version at $24.99 (2 pack for $39.99) is available on this page on ThinkGeek.com.