A year ago, iOS game controllers launched with iOS 7. The first group were a bit rushed and were direct-connected through the Lightning port. That being said, controllers like the Ace Power from Moga showed me what the future could hold in a year. This year the Lightning connector has been dropped and you’re seeing a lot of Bluetooth controllers. Two of those controllers, the C.T.R.L.i come and Micro C.T.R.L.i from Mad Catz, a name every gamer should know.
A History of Gaming
Mad Catz has been making gaming accessories for close to 25 years now. I personally bought their products as far back as the Sega Genesis and several consoles thereafter. They have had to adapt since Sony and Microsoft cut down on 3rd party controllers, but Mad Catz has remained at the forefront of the gaming peripherals market. Needless to say, I was thrilled to learn they would be making a controller for iOS.
The C.T.R.L.i controllers are part of Mad Catz’ GameSmart line for mobile devices. They are based on upon the C.T.R.L.R and Micro C.T.R.L.R bluetooth controllers for the company’s M.O.J.O. Android games console and other Android devices. This allows Mad Catz to offer great quality at a much lower price than we saw in the first round of iOS controllers a year ago.
The C.T.R.L.i is one of the first full-size iOS controllers to hit the market. It’s of similar size and design to the Xbox 360 controller, though it weighs a tad bit more. It features twin analog sticks with the left one in the Xbox-style up position, a lower left D-Pad, 4 ABXY action buttons on the front, L1/R1 shoulder buttons, and L2/R2 triggers. The controls are of high quality and easy to reach. The C.T.R.L.i places ergonomics at the forefront. You can button mash all day without strain. This is a gamer’s controller.
The difference between the C.T.R.L.i and other game controllers is its platform, iOS. When using an iPad, you prop the tablet up with the case stand and game away. With the iPhone, it’s a bit different since it includes a smartphone clip that allows you to use your phone or 4″ iPod Touch as something similar to the Nvidia Shield. The clip was originally designed for the Android model and has no problem fitting any current iOS device from the 4″ iPhone 5-series all the way up to the 5.5″ 6 Plus. The phone mount is very stable. You won’t have to worry about it shifting on you while playing. The C.T.R.L.i’s own heft does a good job of counter balancing the big 6 Plus’s weight and gives you a comfortable gaming experience. In fact, the C.T.R.L.i with the big screen on the 6 Plus is some of the best handheld gaming I’ve ever experienced. Unlike the Moga Rebel, the clip isn’t integrated, but instead screws into the top. This way you can’t lose or forget if not attached. Lastly, it runs on pair of readily available AAA batteries rather than some lithium batteries.
All in all this is exactly what you want a full-size iOS controller to be.
The Micro C.T.R.L.i is micro in size only. As the name implies, the Micro is a scaled down version of C.T.R.L.i. It retains the layout and ergonomics of the full size version. The buttons are slightly smaller, but not noticeably so. Both the face buttons and the shoulder/trigger buttons have a very good feel to them. Rather than nub control sticks, the Micro uses raised control sticks just like the big C.T.R.L.i. As a result, you get a gaming experience not dissimilar from the C.T.R.L.i. It’s very comfortable for long term play. The Micro C.T.R.L.i also has a phone clip just like the full-size one. Well, not completely like it, since it’s a different design. The Micro’s clip snaps into place on the top of the controller. The clip is also slightly smaller. While it will fit any iPhone, the 5S is a really tight fight.
End of the day, “micro” usually means compromises. There are always exceptions to the rule and this one is it, as the Micro C.T.R.L.i has none. It’s a plain excellent controller. In fact, if you’re buying it for a child or adult with smaller size hands, the Micro might actually be the preferred option.
If you look at the front of the C.T.R.L.i, you’ll find 4 lights. These are to show which controller number it is. The MFI controller API supports up to 4 bluetooth controllers on an iPad for console-style multiplayer gaming. I’ve yet to find a game that supports it, so it’s more of a latent ability right now. However, it gives these controllers a long-term future. That’s doubly so when the API is implemented on the Mac and hopefully someday the Apple TV.
Mad Catz has a pair of utility apps for the C.T.R.L.i and Micro C.T.R.L.i. These allow you to see if your buttons are working, check the battery life, and even update the firmware on the controllers. It’s really great for troubleshooting. It also allows the controllers to survive any changes Apple makes.
For the most part, software bugs are rare, and are mostly up to the game developer. A lot of games will work brilliantly just as they would on a PS Vita or Nintendo DS while others are a bit iffy. However, you can almost gauge support by when the game was last updated. If a game was updated since iOS 8 came out, it will probably work great. If it’s one they really no longer support, it may be iffy. Also, some games meant for the standard API instead of the extended may have issues. These games will not use the analog sticks nor the trigger buttons. Mad Catz has a list of games that will work with the controllers here.
Pricing and Availability
This is where the C.T.R.L.i-series really comes through. The C.T.R.L.i is $49.99 and the Micro is $39.99. That is $10 more expensive than the C.T.R.L.R and $5 more than the Micro C.T.R.L.R. By contrast, both the Moga Rebel is $79.99 and the SteelSeries Stratus XL is $69.99. In the micro landscape, the SteelSeries Stratus is still $79.99. The $20-40 price gap combined with the quality makes the C.T.R.L.i-series hard to beat. And one more thing… they are both currently available in black, but white, blue, orange, and red versions are coming soon. Mad Catz pulled out all the stops here.
The first generation of Lightning based and form fitting iOS controllers left something to be desired. The Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i and Micro C.T.R.L.i are absolutely first class. The only thing I can really fault them for is the removable, rather than integrated clip. That honestly can fit in your pocket. iOS games benefit from more than two decades of Mad Catz’s controller development. iPhone 6/6 Plus owners also benefit from a design that is tried and true on Android phones. If they didn’t seem like a good enough deal already, the C.T.R.L.i’s $40 and $50 price tags are way cheaper than the competition. If you’re looking at an iOS Controller, the C.T.R.L.i and Micro C.T.R.L.i are tough to beat.
Pros & ConsC.T.R.L.i
- True console gaming experience
- Well made
- App for future firmware updates
- Works on multiplayer with up to 4 controllers
- Clip easily fits iPhone 6 Plus with case
- Far cheaper than other full size iOS Controllers at $50
- No Major Faults
- Raised analog sticks instead of nubs
- Same quality standards as full size model
- Perfect for children or adults with smaller hands
- Super affordable at $40
- Smaller clip makes iPhone 6 Plus a tight fit.