For a real gamer, there is absolutely nothing worse than having to use virtual touchscreen controls to play games. That may seem like an overstatement, but I cannot think of a single worse control scheme. I would rather not have thumbs than have to use them with on-screen d-pads and buttons. It seems that Logitech feels my pain though, as they have manufactured a solution to such a grievous problem: a stick-on joystick for the iPad.
Using two small suction cups, the joystick can be tacked onto your iPad as a much more precise physical alternative to virtual d-pads. Just position the thumbpad of the joystick over the center of the on-screen virtual d-pad and apply the suction cups to the non-touch-sensitive frame of the iPad. As you drag the thumbpad around, its bottom rubs on the screen, making contact with the virtual d-pad and giving you a much more comfortable method of using the on-screen controls. And to top it off, it’s as comfortable as it is non-permanent; thanks to the suction cups, you can easily pop it off whenever you’re done playing your games and toss it into the included carrying case.
The construction of the joystick is rather clever. Instead of complicating things by creating axes that restrict the joystick to four or eight points of movement, the thumbpad is located in the middle of a springy and circular coil of flexible plastic. This simplified design gives users 360 degrees of movement, allowing them to easily slide the pad around in any direction before it snaps back to the center on its own when released. My only qualm with the design is that I would have preferred it if the thumbpad was rubberized or textured in some way. Instead it’s just slick plastic with only a slight indent, which causes my thumb to slip off the surface every now and then.
The thing is, with such a lightweight, minimalist design that is made up entirely of plastic (with the exception of the rubber suction cups) you would think that the joystick would go for only a few bucks. I thought that maybe the particular design and materials were intentionally chosen in an effort to keep costs down, but this doesn’t appear to be the case as the peripheral has a shocking MSRP of $19.99. That is hands-down far too much to pay for such a simplistic, niche device.
Given how awful virtual d-pads are, I can definitely appreciate a peripheral like this. But ultimately it’s a convenience, not a necessity, making its $20 price tag just way too expensive. Logitech touts its plastic, simplistic joystick as a means to “rack up more wins” and give you an edge on the competition by making your actions more accurate, but how often are you competitively playing iOS games with a virtual d-pad? It’s comfortable and a good solution, but it’s also reserved for a very specific use seeing as not all iOS games even use on-screen d-pads or joysticks — a large number use tilt controls.
So all things considered, at $20 you should probably pass. You’re better off just suffering through your virtual d-pads and putting that money towards 20 games from the App Store.