Moga Mobile Gaming System Review
Manufacturer: PowerA / Played With: Samsung Galaxy S3 / Price: $49.99
The mobile application industry has exploded in recent years following the introduction and mainstream acceptance of smartphones. At the heart of that explosion, I believe, is gaming. Since cellular phones became a device that any average Joe could attain, software in the form of games as simple as Snake and Tetris have provided small, focused entertainment experiences while on the bus, at the doctor’s office, or anywhere we could whip out a phone. Now, in an age where mobile devices are exceedingly more powerful in their processing capabilities, a fine line is drawn between simple games needing no more than basic touch controls (e.g. Angry Birds), and larger-scale games that require a bit more tactile functionality.
Enter the Moga from PowerA, a device focused on the idea of changing the way you play your mobile games. This Bluetooth controller is all about handing you the proper controls needed for some of the more “button hungry” games on the Android Market. We’ve seen it at shows like E3 and PAX Prime over the course of the last year, but I’ve finally been given the final product to spend some time with, and suffice to say it’s a pretty impressive piece of hardware that doesn’t break the bank.
The Moga is a sleek-looking device. PowerA has taken an interesting rectangular approach to the controller’s overall design, adding smooth, rounded-off edges and splashing on a glossy black coat of paint to top it off. The back of the device is layered with an all-encompassing rubber grip for added handling and stability. It’s very light and noticeably thin, and easily fits into the side pocket of a backpack, basketball shorts, or a jean back pocket.
Since smartphones are inherently touch-controlled, the Moga’s main focus is giving you additional control options for games that support it – and boy, does it give you options. Two analog sticks, four face buttons, two triggers and the other two usual suspects: the start and select buttons. In the center of it all is a small latch that flips upward to reveal another not only another Moga logo, but a place to store the Android phone or small tablet you’re pairing with. The top hinge slides upward to fit virtually any Android phone and some miniature tablets. Just make sure they’re running Android 2.3 or higher, that’s Moga’s bottom line.
Unlike something like a PlayStation Vita whose buttons stick out above its flat face (just begging to be bent or damaged), the analog sticks and buttons on the Moga are almost completely flush with the surface of the device. As you might imagine, this makes stowing the Moga much less of a worry — no more need to be overly-cautious about damaging the sticks and buttons when tossing it in your pack or pocket.
If I have a complaint about the Moga, it’s that the analog sticks aren’t as free-moving as I’d like – they’re a bit on the “mushy” side. Playing games like Asphault 7: Heat can be trying at times, as I feel like I’m having to press harder than I should to turn cars around corners. Even games like Sonic CD saw a pretty drastic delay in pressing the stick and seeing movement on-screen. This could, however, very well be a development issue – as playing Virtua Tennis Challenge did not return the same problems. In fact, tennis simulation on the Moga might be my favorite so far – it’s just extremely well implemented and plays smoothly.
However, unlike the sticks, the front-facing buttons have a satisfying sense of tactility to them (as do the triggers) – they have a great click when you press them. Sure, it might be a little loud in a quiet room, but it’s better than having mushy buttons with little responsiveness.
A piece of hardware is, as the saying goes, truly only as good as the software that supports it, and thankfully, a number of game developers and publishers have sprung up to acknowledge the potential of the Moga. Including names not to be ignored like SEGA, Gameloft, Atari and Namco Bandai; the handful of games currently available show great promise for the future of the Moga. So long as top-tier games that require more complex control look to the Moga for assistance, hardcore phone gamers should be in luck.
Thankfully, software developers are being given the tools to map their touch-focused games with some relative level of ease with the Moga’s Pivot App software. This included app not only allows game makers to much more easily implement tactile controls in their games, but the app also acts as a hub and marketplace for users for finding other games supported by the Moga. And since only games that are updated or designed with the Moga in mind will support the controller interface, the inclusion of this app was a critical good move on PowerA’s part.
All you can do (should you decide to buy a Moga) is hope that developers and publishers continue to support the device and allow more games to open up development for it.
PowerA is attempting something with the Moga that many have considered attempting, but have failed in marketing themselves correctly to consumers, developers and publishers; didn’t make a good overall product; or simply never turned their concepts into reality. The Moga is a solid example of how more advanced games can be handled on mobile phones without the need for a more expensive device like the Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Vita.
Of course, mobile phones aren’t near as powerful as the Vita, but they’re shaping up pretty well as the years pass on, and the Moga provides a pretty tactile alternative to incessantly tapping, sliding, and swiping a touchscreen.
The Moga is available now from a variety of online and brick-and-mortar retailers for $49.99.