Duo Gamer review review: An iPad game controller, but not the one you want

How does it feel, though? Well, like a cheap, hollow plastic controller. The buttons and grip aren't comfortable, and the analog pads feel stiff. Playing the first-person shooter N.O.V.A. 3 on it was a mixed bag at best. The game smartly identifies the controller and offers button-based tips and tutorials, but the in-game action was clunky. I felt like I was playing a C version of Halo, especially in terms of controls. First-person shooters on the PlayStation Vita feel far better. I played Asphalt 7: Heat on the iPhone 5, and the Duo Gamer did a better job there. Yes, the Duo Gamer works just as well with an iPhone as with an iPad -- the stand even fits -- but it's an absurd experience. Unfortunately, not all of the five games even worked. I repeatedly tried to play Modern Combat 3 and couldn't get it to recognize the Duo Gamer. That's a bit disturbing, considering it's one of the games advertised on the box.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One advantage of a Bluetooth controller like the Duo Gamer, theoretically, is that you can use it while you're on a couch and your iPad's connected to a large-screen TV. That's true, but for how many games can you enjoy that rare experience? I count five, (actually fewer considering one didn't even work). Discovery Bay is clearly selling that element of the Duo Gamer, but the Duo Gamer has to be a more versatile controller to be of use that way. With the current handful of games, it reminds me more of those TV plug-and-play Jakks Pacific controllers that came bundled with old Sega Genesis games. Only, in this case, there are no bundled games. You have to buy those separately -- at anywhere from 99 cents to $6.99 a pop.

Sarah Tew

The tiny Duo Gamer can slide into a backpack, but it's still over twice the size of an iPhone 5. It won't fit in your pocket unless you're wearing cargo pants. It's ugly but functional. It wouldn't even pass as a B-level knockoff controller at GameStop.

The Duo Gamer comes with a stand, which fits the iPad 2 and third-gen iPad well and accommodates the control pad. Bluetooth pairing happens simply enough with the press of a button. It comes with two AA batteries. That's all I can say positively about the Duo Gamer. I wish there were a universal iPad controller, but that day isn't here yet. I don't know when that day will even come.

If you want a fun retro game controller that works with a good handful of games, get an iCade. If you want a handheld game system with buttons, get a Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Vita. If you want to play games on an iPad or iPhone, use the touch screen. The Duo Gamer just isn't what you and I were looking for.

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Discovery Bay Games Duo Gamer Controller

Part Number: CNET-Duo-Gamer Released: Oct 3, 2012
MSRP: $79.99 Low Price: $6.02 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct 3, 2012
  • Wireless Technology Bluetooth
  • Connectivity Technology wireless
  • Compatibility Mac