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ThinkGeek Joystick-It iPad joystick review

Sections: iDevice Accessories, iPad, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Reviews

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Provides: iPad joystickDeveloper: ThinkGeek
Minimum Requirements: iPad
Price: $24.99
Availability: Now

Does the iPad’s lack of physical controls have you a bit bummed at times, especially when playing games? I feel your pain. There’s really no replacement for a good controller. ThinkGeek has a product called the Joystick-It, which attempts to solve this problem for some arcade style games. It’s a joystick that works with the touch screen of the iPad, making it into a mini arcade. But can an accessory like this actually replicate the feel or enhanced gameplay of a real joystick?

Joystick-It

The Joystick-It is not a joystick in the traditional sense, since you can’t use it on it’s own. It sticks to the screen of your iPad in place of your finger. In effect, it emulates a finger. From the first moment that I saw this accessory, I was intrigued as to exactly how it works. If you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense. The joystick has to stick to the screen somehow, and you’d assume they’d accomplish this with a suction cup. But the ideal place to have the touch sensitive-stimulating material is dead center, exactly where the suction cup should be. Unfortunately, you’ve assessed this situation correctly and found the major design flaw with the Joystick-It before even touching it.

The main problem here is that there’s a suction cup right in the middle of the bottom of the joystick. And it’s not exactly a thin one at that. I imagine this was partly by design, since this acts as a natural pivot point for the joystick. Above the suction cup is a layer of touch simulating material. This is what the iPad will recognize on screen as your finger. As you pivot the Joystick-It around, this layer will touch the screen and should work like you’d want a joystick to work.

Should.

Joystick-It on iPad

Ultimately, this thing just doesn’t work as well as it should. First, there’s too much movement involved. Since the touch material always needs to be touching the screen, it always has to be at it’s most extreme angle. So moving from Up to Down takes a fair bit of effort when compared to just using your finger. I also found that I did better on Pac Man without the joystick. Even worse, there aren’t that many games that would benefit from something like this. Why? A lot of games employ moveable controls that follow your fingers so you don’t have to look to see where they are on screen. That’s a big problem with this, because you’ll never be able to move in the direction corresponding to the first point at which the Joystick-It touches the screen. This is also very frustrating.

The only way to fix this is to get rid of the suction cup and not let the material stop touching the screen. This isn’t really possible for this design, and it’s a shame too because I really like the feel of the Joystick-It. It’s solid and well built, but just not helpful. If you do still like the idea of this guy enough to get one, make sure you keep your screen extra clean, otherwise it’ll fall off. And don’t bother putting on a screen protector, this will likely pull it off when you try to remove it.

So, to answer my original question, no; the Joystick-It does not feel or perform like a real joystick. I’m going to have to write this one off as a novelty accessory rather than a useful gaming accessory. It brings me great displeasure to not be able to recommend the ThinkGeek Joystick-It. ThinkGeek is one of my favorite companies, but this accessory does little to enhance gameplay on a very limited number of titles for iPad. In fact, it might actually make you worse.

If you’re really wanting a joystick accessory, I recommend you wait for the iCade.

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