When it comes to gaming, BlackBerry isn’t what comes to mind for most people. Yet it should. Even though BlackBerry didn’t build its rich heritage with gaming, BlackBerry 10 is a solid platform for games. This is in large part to the efforts BlackBerry has done towards supporting the most popular game development platforms such as Unity, Marmalade, and Shiva. During a recent promotion, BlackBerry is handing out gamepads to developers to help them add gamepad support in their games. Big titles such as Shadowgun, Critial Wave, Alpha Zero, and much more already have excellent gamepad support.
“The dark design gives it an almost ominous presence of awesomeness just waiting to be unleashed”
The gamepad we’ll be looking at today in the context of a BlackBerry gaming experience is the Moga Pro gamepad by Moga. Judging from the packaging, the controller was definitely designed to work with Android smartphones. However, BlackBerry has shown that despite any labeling, this controller is for BlackBerry 10 smartphones as well. With the recent gamepad support added to Unity for BlackBerry 10 smartphones, developers can relatively easily implement gamepad support for their games. This is good news for those who want to get the most out of their mobile games, and for developers who can offer a better gaming experience for games that don’t work as well with a touchscreen. Here is the initial unboxing and brief review. As a gamepad, the Moga Pro looks amazing. The dark design gives it an almost ominous presence of awesomeness just waiting to be unleashed. It honestly looks like a game controller should. It has the grip where its needed, all the analog and digital inputs that we’ve gotten used to, and the “START” and “SELECT” buttons that have been there since the stone age of handheld game controllers. You’ll notice that the Moga Pro has a special flap that flips up in the center. It becomes evident that this controller was designed for mobile gaming. The clamp fits a Z10 and Z30 easily, and even fit some of the largest Android or Windows phones. In the case where you want to hook it up to your tablet or uber-big phone, there’s a separate stand included with the controller. The side grips aren’t necessarily as soft as you’d initially think, but they do give you a good grip of the controller. They don’t clash with the rest of the controller design and it won’t leave your hands in a pool of sweat while you’re pwning that huge boss with that rocket launcher (see Shadowgun). The curvature and shape of the grip is excellent. For my average-sized hands, it was a match made in (gaming) heaven. The texture on the grip feels a little like the back of a white Z10, which is not as good as the luxurious back of the black Z10 or Z30, but not terrible either. The four main buttons on the right, while not as divine as the ones you’d find on your old beloved SNES, have a quick response to them. The keypress requires a little more pressure than I would like, but this is something that could change with a little use. The buttons also stick out farther than what I felt was optimal. You can’t quickly slide your finger from one button to the next without it feeling clumsy. The L1 and R1 buttons are the same story, but since they aren’t used as often and have a designated finger to press them, I actually prefer the tactile feedback they provide. They are similar in feedback to those on PlayStation controllers, but the feel is not as soft with less texture on them. The Moga Pro is switched on by activating Bluetooth mode “A” or “B” under the smartphone clamp. For BlackBerry, games mode “B” is used as it corresponds to HIID mode that Unity-created games support. While connecting to your BlackBerry 10 smartphone, you’ll notice that pairing only works properly in “B” mode anyway. To connect from the BlackBerry 10 smartphone, you’ll have to head into Bluetooth settings from the Network and Connections settings. Make sure the controller is set to Mode “B” and just search for the controller. When you find it, just select it and it should connect. After that, game on! If you can’t find it, it may be listed as “Peripheral” or something. You should see it as Moga Pro HID. If you see it as “Moga Pro” and can’t connect because “you need to turn on internet tethering” you probably set it to Mode “A” by mistake. The clamp itself has quite a strong grip. If I placed my Z10 inside and threw it off a cliff, I would be able to confidently say that both the phone and controller would be smashed to bits at the same time. While I don’t see how having a Q10 would work inside, it’s a great solution for QWERTY-less phones which give a good landscape gaming experience. The analog sticks work very well. The rimmed design helps your thumb stay in position while make sure they don’t get sore during those extended gaming sessions. The texture is very soft, but the rims are very precisely cut which makes may rub the skin a little bit. Over time, I feel the analog sticks will settle into a really great feel. The controller is little larger than the Playstation 4 controller and is about the same weight. I’d have to hand it to Sony for designing such a sleep controller, as its only beside the PS4 controller that the Moga looks less premium. The micro USB port is located conveniently at the back of the controller for charging and USB OTG connections to device if you don’t want to go through Bluetooth. The button on the back of the controller lights up the four X, Y, A and B buttons if you’re gaming in low light. It doesn’t really help too much in the long term, but its nice to have if you’re learning how standard game controllers work or if you forget which button is which. The L2 and R2 triggers are fantastic. I’m immediately overwhelmed by a flashback of me playing Duck Hunt on the NES back in 1993. It has that same instant gratifying trigger mechanism without that secondary click that triggered the gun. While it would be unfair in a game of Duck Hunt, fully automatic weapons are everywhere in games these days and the trigger mechanism would be a little dated if employed here. The stiffer feel of these triggers suit the mobile gaming application more than that of the PlayStation 4, which focuses on easy of use for first person shooter games. In short, no complaints! The triggers themselves are narrow, much like those of the X-box controllers.
“While being designed for Android, the fact that it works beautifully with BlackBerry 10 is a testament to the platform and development team at BlackBerry”
The D-pad is a single unit which rocks from side to side and top to bottom for nagivation. It sticks out a little far, but the feedback is good enough that its definitely useable. It’s actually one of the best D-pads I’ve encountered. One of the way I measure this is the ease of which I can pull of Zangief’s spinning piledriver in Street Fighter II. No joke. If you can nail one of those without too much issue, you know its a good controller. The imprints on the controller give you some grip and the depression in the centre gives your thumb a comfortable place to rest. The Moga Pro Gaming System sells for $49.99. For that, you get the controller, a USB cable, a tablet stand, and that’s pretty much it and all you really need. While using it, I had very little to complain about and it all worked as expected. I really like the look and it was easy to set up. While being designed for Android, the fact that it works beautifully with BlackBerry 10 is a testament to the platform and development team at BlackBerry. With QNX under the hood, BlackBerry 10 had the potential to be a game friendly platform and it delivered. With enough games available for BlackBerry 10 and recently support for gamepads like the Moga Pro, I can safely say that the BlackBerry 10 gaming experience has been a positive one.