MOGA Mobile Gaming System Review: Controlling the Future of Android Gaming

You might know video game accessory makers PowerA as a novelty company of sorts. A quick scan of their website will reveal that they sell everything from Yoshi backpacks to sweet Batarang styled controllers. They’re obviously a company having fun with what they do.

You may, then, try to write off their latest creation, the MOGA mobile gaming console, an Android system game controller, as a novelty as well. After all, the entire point of having a touch-based system is the simplicity of the touch-based controls eliminating the need for traditional controllers. Understandably, it is easy to ignore the idea of buying an accessory for controlling touchscreen games.

Doing so, however, would be doing yourself a tremendous disservice. Compatible with over 40 titles and Android systems 2.3 and up, the MOGA is a battery-operated, bluetooth-enabled controller that essentially turns your touchscreen phone into more of a traditional handheld gaming device. It even works with tablets, remotely, by using a sync button. The reason it succeeds is entirely due to the design of the controller, which is perfectly sized to take into account both your hands and the size of the phone. The button layout is reminiscent of an Xbox controller, and immediately feels comfortable with the real highlights being the “nub” like joysticks that barely protrude from the controller and never intrude on your game experience, the responsive and well placed “trigger” shoulder buttons, and a nice rubber lining along the side of the unit, providing a firm grip.

Even better than the design of the controller is the fact that it really does work. I never once experienced a moment of lag or unresponsiveness while playing, which is quite impressive considering that these games weren’t designed with this controller in mind. The compatible games so far don’t necessarily use every button on the remote at all times, but the ones that they do work in some way to enhance each game significantly, whether it be true range of movement in the FPS “N.O.V.A. 3” thanks to the joysticks, or more accurate QB controls in “Madden 2013” on behalf of the face buttons.

It’s pretty clear that the list of available titles for the MOGA is far from random, and instead are carefully hand picked titles that don’t work on touchscreen gaming alone without some sacrifice, whether minor or seriously detrimental, going along with it. Rather than think of the MOGA as a superfluous touchscreen accessory, you should instead consider it a savior of a variety of genres and titles that at this time simply do not work well on a touchscreen, even if the games themselves are exceptional.

A great example would be the phenomenal “Sonic CD.” Never having had the chance to experience this classic during its release, using the MOGA I found myself incredibly addicted to it. Curious, I switched to the touchscreen controls and found it purely unplayable to the point where I questioned the integrity of releasing it in such a format. That’s one example, but it holds true for many of the compatible titles so far. The MOGA significantly enhances the value of the games it supports.

PowerA is already hyping new titles and developers that are set to jump onto the MOGA, and I hope it happens soon. The very idea of the controller opens up a missing link of sorts between mobile gaming and the rest of the field, and the actual functionality of the device immediately eliminates any doubts you might have regarding if the concept can truly work. I wish there was a greater range of motion on the actual dock (which can be set to three positions), but it does work for everyday use, as well as more unconventional playing positions like lying down.

Whether or not the MOGA justifies its $49.99 price tag is entirely dependent on a number of factors, such as how much you game on your mobile device, how many of the compatible games you play, and how much faith you have in a variety of developers continuing to support the device. Considering its ingenious design, though, in a perfect world we would see enough continued support for this device to call buying it now an investment. As it stands, the MOGA adds some kind of improvement to every game it works with and is easily one of the best all-around gaming accessories I’ve used this year.

  

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App of the Week: Wrestling Revolution

Compatible With: Android 2.2 and up

Price: Free

Available here

When I was a kid, there was nothing cooler than pro wrestling. Turning on the TV to find larger than life individuals with cartoon personas wailing on each other to the delight of packed arenas was a sensory overload experience that few programs could match. Over time, though, the program aged, and so did I. Like the rest of the country at the time, I was captivated by the obscene brutality of the “Attitude Era”, and the new stars it created like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and The Rock, but after that pro wrestling just lost its appeal.

Still though, I’ve got enough nostalgic love for pro wrestling, that occasionally the right spark can rekindle that old passion for it. This usually happens when I play the “Smackdown v.s. Raw” games, as the series genuinely good multiplayer mode is easy enough for anyone to get into, whatever the source material may be. However, those games have become watered down over the years, as the lack of competition have forced them into such a complacency that the series has lost that light hearted, casual fun aspect that makes pro wrestling, in any format, so entertaining in the first place.

That’s why we need a revolution. “Wrestling Revolution” is an android app that offers a simplified touch control system that allows for all of the basic strikes, grapples, and special moves the sport is known for. It also has the standard match types like 1 on 1, tag team, and battle royals, along with the regular arsenal of usable weapons such as chairs, tables, and title belts. On so many levels, it is your basic wrestling game, just with touch controls that perform well enough to not get in your way too often.

So why is it my app of the week? Because it’s loaded with that pure fun I was talking about earlier. The roster is so good it’s criminal (seriously, you may have to edit some of the names, but the available likenesses make sure you don’t have to stretch your imagination too much) and their vibrant sprites perform a surprisingly good range of animations for the various maneuvers available. This game harkens back to the arcade style of the classic “WWF Wrestlefest”, and is all the better for it. The one feature that’s not a throwback at all, and is actually quite innovative, is the games “episodic” format. While this mode is still a work in progress, it actually boasts  updated weekly storylines that promise to make the game different every time you play it. The feature isn’t quite there yet, but parts of it are still leagues ahead of the same ole, same ole single player mode of its major league counterpart in terms of ambition.

There’s more to the game of course, such as create a character modes and the like, but in the end you want this app because it’s so much pure fun. While I can’t promise that it will make a believer out of non-wrestling fans, for a free app ($.99 for the PPV add-on), if you’ve ever had an ounce of love for the sport, and own an android, you owe it to yourself to give this one a shot. It’s may not be as technically sound as Mr. Perfect, as flashy as a Ric Flair entrance from the 80’s, or a complete revolutionist like CM Punk. It does, however, remind me of Andre the Giant. Obvious, blunt, but consistently entertaining enough to make it an easy app of the week.

  

Zynga and the death of Draw Somehing

As a gamer and more specifically a lover of indie games, my default stance with Zynga is pure revulsion. The company has blatantly and shamelessly cannibalized so many indie hits at this point that I simply will not support any product they produce. The latest title to join my blacklist is Draw Something, the smash hit from OMGPOP. Zynga recently purchased the company for nearly $200 million, a purchase that drew a lot of raised eyebrows, including my own.

Don’t get me wrong, Draw Something is fun. It’s a perfect recreation of a game I know as Telestrations. In the physical world, Telestrations requires players to sketch a word using a fat-tip, dry-erase marker. The drawings are expectedly bad, but that’s part of the fun. The same is true of Draw Something – human fingers just aren’t precise enough to draw an accurate representation of Kanye West on a smartphone, but they can damn sure mock up some window-shade sunglasses and draw a bar of gold next to a shovel.

But Draw Something doesn’t quite have the magic that makes players stick around after the initial week-long excitement is gone. For me, interactions over Draw Something didn’t create enough of a story. With Telestrations, players pass their drawings around a room. The next person writes the phrase the original artist was trying to sketch. The person of that draws – it’s a game of sketch telephone. The real fun of the game, though, is in the retelling of the drawings. You get to see where players missed the mark. Draw Something is just too easy after a few plays with a new player. You know how they think, how they communicate an idea, and because Draw Something presents a hangman-style letter bank from which to guess, getting the word right is a simple process of elimination.

I could see why Zynga might have initially been interested in Draw Something; the game was pulling 15 million users a day through Facebook alone. It was at the top of the app charts, one of the highest grossing apps around. But just a couple weeks later Facebook traffic fell by half. Despite the company’s recent announcement of a partnership with Dreamworks for ads inside the game, it’s hard to see the Draw Something deal paying out. Even with a nice ad deal, there won’t be enough players in a couple months to make the math work.

I can’t say I’m sad to see Zynga’s stock continue to tumble, but I hope the company’s fall only leaves room for more games to fill its void. For a couple weeks, Draw Something had me connected to friends spread all over the country. If a company that respects IP can swoop in to deliver a lasting version of that experience, I’ll be a happy man.

  

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