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

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The Good The Duo Gamer is wireless, has dual analog sticks, and works as a game controller when the iPad is connected to a large-screen TV.

The Bad An $80 price is insane, it feels clunky, and it only works with a limited batch of Gameloft games. You'd better love Gameloft.

The Bottom Line The good news: the iPad has a game controller. The bad news: it only works with a few games. Meet the awkward Duo Gamer.

3.0 Overall
  • Design 4
  • Features 5
  • Performance 4

I've always wanted a physical game controller for the iPad. So, when I first heard about the Duo Gamer, I was ecstatic. This was the device the iPad needed: a stand and a simple dual-analog-stick game pad to turn your little tablet into an effective miniature game console.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Discovery Bay Games' Duo Gamer has a big drawback, though. Actually, two of them. The first: this game pad, quizzically and paradoxically, only works with Gameloft titles. And, not even all of those: right now, the Duo Gamer is only compatible with Asphalt 7: Heat, Modern Combat 3, Order & Chaos Online, Brothers in Arms 2, and N.O.V.A 3, with "more to come."

The second is the price: $80. That's higher than any console game controller, and as much money as the iCade arcade cabinet. For this little plastic Bluetooth puck of a controller, it feels like a joke. It has to be a joke, right?

Sarah Tew/CNET

Alas, no. Discovery Bay Games claims that part of why the Duo Gamer only works with one publisher's set of games has to do with the rules of creating accessories for App Store titles. Whatever the reason, the end result is that this is a hobbled product. The iCade somehow managed to work with a whole growing family of indie games and retro classics; the Duo Gamer's limited-use library means that you won't be bringing this out every day, or, probably, at all.

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.

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