Expo Notes: Hands on with the Fling Game Controller for iPad

Every iOS gamer wants to experience arcade-style action on the iPad. But with certain games—including any that require a virtual joystick—the iPad’s shortcomings as a gaming device have been exposed. Without the ability to use a conventional joystick, gaming genres that require exact movement and tacticle responses don’t always fare well on Apple’s tablet. Without the physical feel of a joystick, it’s easy to let your thumbs wander and accidentally slip off the virtual buttons. Fighting games, first-person shooters, and even many adventure titles have often translated poorly to the iPad due to their reliance on joystick movement rather than touch and gesture controls.

The Fling Game Controller

Ten One Design has the novel idea of changing that. Its Fling Game Controller for iPad takes the “virtual” out of “virtual joystick.” Instead, the Fling is an external attachment to your tablet that fits over your corner virtual joystick. Two suction cups secure the device to the iPad’s touchscreen, granting players a “tactile response with haptic feedback.” What this means for iPad users in practical terms is more control in their gaming.

It’s an interesting concept, and at Ten One Design’s booth on the Macworld 2011 floor this week, the company offered an appealing hands-on demonstration. The company had two “Asteroids”-like shoot-‘em-up games that highlight the precision achieved by the Fling controller. Hairpin turns and other acrobatic maneuvers were rendered with ease.

The Ten One Design reps boast that the Fling controller is compatible with more than 100 games, including a publicly edited list on its Website.

That said, how "compatible" the Fling is depends on what game you're playing and often how large the virtual joystick is. In my experience, the Fling Controller had difficulty overlaying properly on several Gameloft titles—most noticeably Dungeon Hunter HD. With Dungeon Hunter's larger virtual joystock, I found the Fling to be sporadic in its responsiveness to my commands, particularly when I tried to move in certain directions. Still, the Fling is impressive enough to have won Best of Show honors from my fellow Macworld editors.

With a growing list of games compatible with the device, the potential for the Fling is noteworthy. First-person shooters, adventure titles, and platformers look to benefit the most from the Fling’s improved controls. The challenge for Ten One Design this next year will be not only to enable more games to be compatible with the Fling, but for game developers to start developing with the Fling controller in mind.

Available for $20 and on display at Booth No. 615 at Macworld Expo, every iPad gamer owes themselves a look at the Fling Game Controller in action.

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