Made By: PowerA
Price: $99.99

Hardware/iOS Integration Rating: ★★★☆☆
Usability Rating: ★★★★☆
Reuse Value Rating: ★★★☆☆
Build Quality Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Bottom Line: The first official gamepad for iOS is fraught with issues, but also shows the promise that MFi gamepads can bring to iOS gaming.

The dawn of a new era in iOS gaming is on hand with the launch of the first MFi gamepads from MOGA and Logitech. However, things are far from ideal right now, as the MOGA Ace Power shows.

ACE POWER 1I was most excited for MOGA to toss its hat into the iOS gamepad ring – the MOGA Pro is my favorite Android gamepad without a doubt, and a wonderful controller for playing games with. So, with MOGA having the first “extended” MFi gamepad boasting a full complement of buttons (four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, two analog triggers, a d-pad, a pause button, and two analog joysticks) I was excited. However, the limitations of the MOGA Ace Power and its high price tag make it only for early adopters.

The MOGA Ace Power connects with an iPhone or iPod touch via the Lightning port in the controller. Sorry iPad gamers, there’s no way to use this on the tablet yet. The controller extends out from the middle to fit the device, with the Lightning connector on the right side providing the gamepad connection and recharging from the controller’s built-in battery. My tip for getting the device in and out: the right side is easier to ‘stretch,’ so extend that side first when connecting and disconnecting as it’s safer and easier to use the left side to insert and remove with no fear of bending the Lightning connector.

ACE POWER 4It’s not really easier than a Bluetooth solution, and the integrated approach comes at an ergonomic disadvantage. I recommend playing with hands resting on a table to play; the width and weight of the phone and gamepad, plus the extended battery in it, makes it hard to hold up altogether. And holding it in one’s lap looking downward is not good posture. The clamp on the Android MOGA controllers tilts the screen upward toward the player, which is much more comfortable; I’d love something like this from the next MOGA MFi gamepad.

However, once getting into actual games it’s a great experience. My control issues with Oceanhorn? They disappeared pretty much right away with the MOGA Ace Power. I could easily aim and fire arrows with the gamepad. I increased my Silverfish Haste mode high score by sixfold after a couple of rounds. Once I disabled things like auto-aim in Neon Shadow and auto-fire in Dead Trigger 2 I was an ace marksman, though the disc-shaped joysticks admittedly work a lot better with quick movements and actions rather than precise movements. Still, playing games with an actual controller on an iPhone? For many games, it just feels better. I’m so glad this option exists now.

ACE POWER 5As the first extended MFi gamepad on the market, there were bound to be some bumps in the road, and there are many. The d-pad was an iffy choice – it’s fine for movement but less so for an FPS where the directions might serve as actual buttons. The battery makes the gamepad heavier, and it only really provides the ability to keep the phone battery from draining while using the controller. And of course, the $99.99 launch price, when only a couple dozen or so games use the controller, and when it’s difficult to find supported games on the App Store or already installed, makes this an investment in hopes that more games will support it. The lack of iPad support also hurts a whole lot.

It’s possible the restrictions were purposeful, perhaps dictated from Apple’s end to ensure a slow initial rollout, but it just all seems silly. The MOGA Ace Power plays a nice game, there’s just not many available for it yet and the steep entry cost and restrictions make this only for the dedicated early adopter who primarily games on their iPhone. Still, considering how much fun it is to play gamepad games, MFi gamepads have a bright future – just a murky present.

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