PowerA aims to make Android gaming more appealing with its newly released MOGA Mobile Gaming Controller. Look at any app reviews resource, and you'll invariably see a caveat in nearly every game write-up panning the use of touch-based virtual controls. The MOGA turns those fake buttons into real ones, syncing via Bluetooth to put an actual gamepad in your hands.
The $49.99 peripheral doesn't work with every game out there, but it doesn't need to. As long as the top developers include support for their console-style gaming experiences, the MOGA is doing what it's supposed to. The good news is that Gameloft, Namco, Sega, and a handful of others are already stepping up to patch in support.
I spent much of the past week tooling around with a MOGA and paired Samsung Galaxy SIII during commutes and such, and I've been very satisfied with the performance. It's a well-designed peripheral that fits snugly into your two hands. You notice immediately when you hold the thing that you're dealing with a much smaller gamepad than you would for a full-blown gaming console, but there's no awkward feeling as you reach for the two analog nubs, two shoulder triggers, and four face buttons.
The analog nubs actually offer nice resistance, falling right into the analog stick sweet spot between too mushy and too stiff. The face buttons are similarly responsive, and they produce a satisfying click whenever you press one.
The real adjustment for most gamers will be the shoulder triggers; unlike console gamepads, these are clickable buttons as opposed to analog controls. There isn't an Android game out there that would require you to feather the triggers, but first-person shooters like N.O.V.A. treat trigger-activated "aiming down sights" mode as a button toggle rather than as the "hold to aim" you'd typically expect in most console games.
The MOGA is also fitted with a fold-up smartphone mount, with an extendable arm that holds your touch device in place. The Galaxy SIII fits into the mount easily and the screen is close enough to the rest of the controller that you can still easily reach up with your thumbs to input touch commands. The only problem that I ran into here is more device-specific; fitted properly into the MOGA, the Galaxy's volume controls become inaccessible. Future iterations of the peripheral would do well to include a Bluetooth-powered volume control option.
MOGA users will also get to grab the companion MOGA Pivot App, free of charge. Functioning as a combination library and storefront, the app allows you to manage your list of MOGA-compatible games and seek out new ones.
I played through a number of MOGA-compatible, pre-installed games on my loaner device, including N.O.V.A. 3, Virtua Tennis Challenge, Pac-Man, Asphalt 7: Heat, and Sonic CD, and was immediately impressed by the level of MOGA integration. It varies by game of course, but most of the compatible titles include tutorials and help text that refers specifically to the PowerA peripheral's control scheme.
The games themselves perform great, though having physical controls available serves to highlight the big issue with using touch inputs for console-style games. Difficulty tends to be dialed down considerably to account for virtual analog controls, meaning that the MOGA makes a title like N.O.V.A. 3 a total cakewalk. Maybe that's what a mobile gamer is looking for, but as developer's continue to build in MOGA support for their games, it would be nice to also see similarly tweaked difficulty options.
PowerA's MOGA is nonetheless an encouraging step forward for a mobile gaming industry that is increasingly working to curry the favor of serious gamers. There are areas that could be improved upon, both on the peripheral side and on the game developer side, but the fact is that gamers now have a completely viable, reasonably priced alternative to struggling with virtual controls.
MOGA Mobile Gaming Controller/ $49.99
More Info: MOGA Website