One iPhone Game That's Worse With An Xbox Controller

One iPhone Game That's Worse With An Xbox Controller

When it comes to mobile gaming, there's one complaint that has bubbled up for years now, and never seems to go away: touchscreen controls are a pain in the arse.

See, for a lot of games, those touch-based controls are just straight-up inferior to buttons and joysticks, and to many gamers, recent iOS ports like Dragon Quest VIII are hard to play without a real controller.

But, hey, it works both ways.

Last week at E3, the folks behind the hit mobile game Threes announced that they'd be bringing it to Xbox One. It was a neat surprise; Threes is one of the best games you can play on your phone, powerful in how it challenges you to play more, more, more until you're two subway stops past home and you've just looked up for the first time in 30 minutes.

Now, I play a lot of Threes.

A lot of Threes.

Look, I'm not kidding when I say I play a lot of Threes.

One iPhone Game That's Worse With An Xbox Controller

Threes is pretty much the only game I'm good at, so when I was wandering around the E3 show floor last week, I thought I'd go try to set the high score on the demo booth for Xbox One. How hard could it be?

But... playing with a controller felt terrible. Awful. Clunky. Atrocious. Minutes after I tried it, I had to load up some Threes on my phone just to cleanse my fingers. Where swiping the screen to match tiles in Threes feels elegant, like gliding along a lake, manoeuvring this board with an Xbox controller is like hammering nails with a piece of plywood -- it gets the job done, but it all just feels wrong.

One of Threes' most important tactics is the half-move -- when you start sliding your tiles in one direction just to see where everything will fit. With a joystick, this is nearly impossible to pull off, because you get a significantly less precise sense of how far you're sliding the board forward. It's much easier to feel that elastic pull when your finger is right on the screen, and consequently, it's much easier to make the right decisions as you play through the game.

As I'm sure you can tell, I take Threes very seriously. And though the talented folks behind the game might find other ways to optimise it for use on controllers, I can't see it ever feeling better than it does on a touchscreen.

If you've got a smartphone, play Threes. It's wonderful. Just don't wait for it to come to the Xbox. Some games are better without a controller.


Comments

    Even though I would never play this game on a non touch device. I appreciate that MS is giving this game more exposure. On android at least this game has like 100,000+ downloads as opposed to rip off 2048 which has 10,000,000+ downloads. People actually think 2048 is the original game >:(

      Well obviously the free version will have more downloads.

      Last edited 19/06/14 5:38 pm

        No doubt. It still annoying that someone can come up with an original game like this and someone steals his idea and makes way more money off it.

    It doesn't sound that difficult to implement this sort of feature with a controller.

    One option would be to let you hold down a trigger, and only complete the move when the trigger is released. That would remove any ambiguity over whether you had finished the move or not, and let you undo it.

    Another would be to have one of the buttons perform a single-step undo action. The input methods should inform the game play, after all.

    My breath has been whisked away to the Windmills of Holland with shock at this discovery. Whoever knew that games designed for touch screens don't translate well to controllers and games designed for controllers don't translate well to touch screens? The magic of the world never ceases to amaze me. Subtle sarcasm aside, people need to think more about how to make games work for the platform rather than just bringing it across unchanged, hoping the profits and userbase will follow suit.

      Whoever knew that games designed for touch screens don't translate well to controllers and games designed for controllers don't translate well to touch screens?

      I take it you didn't like physical copy of Angry Birds Trilogy for Xbox 360 and PS3? A title that is not-at-all a waste of a disc and is a cruel mockery of touch-based gaming?

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