During the past week, we scored a chance to check out Mad Catz's Micro C.T.R.L.i gaming controller for the iPod, iPhone and iPad. The peripheral is smaller than the company's other new iOS controller for the same devices, aimed at gamers who want to play anywhere and at any time. Unfortunately, it's not quite as mobile as Mad Catz probably intended.
Here's why, and I'm going to make a reference to the original MOGA Pocket Controller even though it's made for Android. The MOGA solution consists of an "arm" that resides in the very middle. Users simply raise the arm up, pull up on the clamp, and insert an Android phone. When the game is done, you simply pull the phone out and snap the arm closed. Piece of cake.
I like the MOGA solution because nothing is compromised; the analog thumbsicks are far enough apart to be comfortable, and the needed buttons are pulled to the left side. The company improved the design with the MOGA Hero Power, adding a D-pad on the left side. This solution simply works.
For the Mad Catz "Micro" controller, the company provides a "travel clip." This snaps on to a notch mounted on the back of the controller. Getting this clip on and off is a little scary, as it doesn't go on easily; you have to assert some force to get it into place and when you're taking it off. Obviously, this tight fit means that the clip won't fall off during a mad gaming session. Still, I can see this clip getting broken in the process.
So that's my big beef with the Micro controller: the clip. Like the MOGA solution for Android, it has a clamp that can be pulled up so that you can slip in the iPhone 5 and newer. Pull the phone out when you're done, or remove the clip entirely if you want to play on an iPad. Users can also leave the clip attached, as it really doesn't get in the way when playing on a tablet or a big screen HDTV.
To get this controller up and running, users insert a AAA battery in each handle, flick on the power, and press the Bluetooth button located near the clip area. On the iPhone or iPad that has Bluetooth running, the controller will flash a message on the iOS device asking the user to download a Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i app. This app provides information such as the battery level of the controller and the firmware version, and it tracks the hardware in real time so that gamers know each button is working properly.
This new Micro controller provides an analog thumb stick, the D-button, a trigger button and a shoulder button on the left side. On the right, Mad Catz provides the typical ABXY group of buttons, an analog thumb stick, a shoulder button and a trigger button. The Bluetooth button and the pause button reside in the area between the left thumb stick and the ABXY buttons. Overall, the gamepad measures about 5 inches wide, 3.5 inches long, and 1.5 inches tall.
Unlike my MOGA Pocket Controller, the Mad Catz solution is easy to hold, with glossy black plastic on the top and a grainy, soft black plastic surface on the bottom. The controller comes in white, red, blue and orange, too.
I would have liked to have seen a rubberized bottom so that the controller feels a bit more secure in my hand. Don't get me wrong -- the current design works just fine, but it could be tighter.
In addition to the plastic design, the controller provides ABXY buttons that are large and sport humongous letters so that you're not having to look twice during the heat of battle. The thumb sticks are super responsive, yet the D-button feels a bit stiff and requires a bit of an effort to push; there's no light tapping going on here.
So what games are compatible with this controller? Good question. There's a list of compatible games provided within the iOS app as well as a compatibility list located on the Mad Catz website. The list includes Bioshock, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, Neon Shadow, Ms PAC-MAN, LEGO The Lord of the Rings, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, several Final Fantasy titles, Dead Trigger 2, and many, many more games.
The Micro C.T.R.L.i is a great little controller that's ideal for on-the-go gaming. Without the attached arm, this device could actually fit in your pocket. However, I didn't care for the travel clip design and the way users must force the extension on and off the controller. This feature really needed to be a permanent fixture on the peripheral that can be folded down when not in use so the clip doesn't get broken.
The Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i controller can be purchased here for $39.99.
UPDATE: I changed the part about the games list in the iOS app, as they're provided under the Gamesmart section, which wasn't working for me at the time of the initial post.