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Review: Fling Joystick Controller for iPad

For those seeking a tactile, hardware iPad game controller, the Fling Joystick for iPad ($30 for 2) offers both good news and bad news. The good news is that when the Fling is compatible with a game, it completely changes the experience for the better. It makes the controls accurate and supplies that reassuring physical feedback of a hardware controller. But the bad news is that the Fling isn’t compatible with as many games as you’d think it would be. Even with games that use a virtual directional pad seemingly suited for the joystick, the Fling often interferes with various game elements to the point the game is unplayable. If you think the Fling will work with your favorite game just because it utilizes a virtual d-pad, think again, as there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed.

Games That Work Well With the Fling


Fling for iPad

Here are a few games I tested with the Fling that, for the most part, offered an improved experience:

NBA Jam was a blast using the Fling. It was easier to perform precise maneuvers with the players on the court—especially while on defense. I could make players break quickly in a specific direction rather than suffer the uncertain feeling of sliding my finger across a formless touch d-pad. The Fling had only one minor hiccup for NBA Jam: some of the player stats were covered up when displayed as graphics in between quarters. It didn’t affect gameplay at all, but I couldn’t tell how many points Dirk Nowitzki had after the third quarter—not a big deal. Overall, the Fling provided an improved gaming experience.

Death Rally was like an entirely different game with the Fling. If you haven’t played Death Rally, it’s a racing game where you shoot at the other cars. The game is all about accurate steering, and without the Fling, it can be frustrating to play. With the Fling, it’s pure fun. There were some minor problems with the Fling covering up menu items, but they were still accessible by reaching in between the plastic spirals.

Spider-Man Total Mayhem HD allows you to drag its controls and buttons anywhere on the screen you’d like, which allows the Fling to work perfectly with the game (the default button locations do conflict with the Fling, so you’ll have to move them around). After that, the game was a blast. The Fling did have one other minor problem: the menu’s “go back” arrow is located the bottom left corner of the screen—the same area where the Fling goes. You have to dig in between the Fling’s spirals to tap the button, which is slightly annoying. But overall, the Fling works great with this game.

Pac-Man for iPad works surprisingly well with the Fling. The game offers you several control choices like tilt, swipe, and joystick. Joystick is the one you’ll want. While the fling is not the equivalent of the arcade joystick of yesteryear (try the iCade for that), it does allow you to make those crucial split-second direction changes to save your Pac-Man from the ghosts.

Fling for iPad joystick

Fling Game Controller on iPad

The Games That Don’t Work

Order & Chaos Online was one game I really hoped would work with the Fling. Unfortunately,the Fling conflicts with several important game elements. First, the Fling interferes with the game’s pop-up keyboard—crucial for the game’s social chat-room aspect. The Fling also conflicts with the game’s menu system, which you make heavy use of. It’s a shame too, because the Fling works great to control the movement of the character.

Gun Bros, with its dual-directional pads, was a game I assumed would work great with the Fling. It doesn’t. Gun Bros d-pad controls are more sensitive and operate with a greater range of motion than most games, allowing you to move your character faster or slower depending on how far you move your finger away from the d-pad’s center. The Fling just doesn’t allow enough range of motion to utilize Gun Bros’ various character-movement speeds.

Minigore was another game I thought would be a fit for the Fling. But Minigore’s d-pad has an off-center design to it that is completely incompatible with the Fling. Using the Fling cripples movement to only one direction.

Harry Potter: Years 1-4 was a game I saw another blog say was compatible with the Fling. It’s not. After switching to d-pad controls from the game’s default tilt controls, I found that the Fling would only work briefly, then the controls would become sluggish and sometimes inaccurate. The Fling also interfered with the game menu’s back button, which is a major annoyance because you have to frequently access the menu to play the game.

How to Tell If the Fling Will Work With a Game

It’s never 100% confirmable that Fling will work with a specific game until you’ve tried it out (or someone else has). Nevertheless, I’ve compiled a list of a few basic questions to ask if you’re thinking of buying the Fling for a game:

  1. Does the game have menus that require touching the bottom left and/or right 2 square inches of the iPad’s screen? If so, the Fling will likely interfere with gameplay.
  2. Does the game require use of the iPad’s pop-up keyboard? If so, the Fling will likely interfere with using the keyboard (note: iOS 5 will introduce a detachable keyboard).
  3. Is the game’s d-pad closer than one inch from the iPad screen’s edge? If so, you’ll likely have to turn the Fling around so that the suctions cups are pointed toward the iPad’s center.
  4. Does the game’s d-pad require a range of motion that goes beyond a half an inch? The Fling likely won’t be compatible.

Durability

Despite being made of what feels like cheap, creeky plastic, the Fling is quite durable. I even tried to break one of the two Flings I purchased by bending it as far as a I could during gameplay. It bent but didn’t break.

The Suction Cups

The suction cups can be annoying. Sometimes they held fast under all the lateral pressure I could muster. Sometimes they slipped off as easy as Cinderella’s slipper. I found that, in general, if I took the time to make sure the suction cups had good purchase on the iPad’s screen and pushed down hard on the cups, they held. If I was lazy and tried to put them on too quickly, the Fling’s suction cups would slide off pretty easy. Not a good thing in the middle of a heated battle.

Conclusion

Success with the Fling comes down to compatibility. If it’s compatible with a game, it completely changes the experience in a positive way. The Fling adds the reassuring tactile feel of a hardware controller otherwise missing from touchscreen controls. The only problem is, the Fling is not compatible with as many games as it should be—even games you’d think it be a perfect fit for. We recommend doing research before buying the Fling for your favorite game.

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