For some, a mobile or tablet could be your only gaming device; or maybe like me, you’re finding yourself spending more time gaming on mobile than you do on your current-generation consoles. Sadly, the biggest problem with touch-screen gaming has been with certain games requiring the use of virtual on-screen joysticks.
For mobile games such as first-person shooters, virtual twin-sticks can feel very frustrating most of the time, and this has resulted in games adopting alternative gameplay mechanics, such as moving you along on rails, whilst you swipe to aim and tap on on your enemies to shoot. This isn’t the best if you’re seeking a console-like FPS experience on a mobile. A physical ‘controller-like’ solution is required for that.
There has been a number of mobile controller solutions out there that has tried to solve this problem. Some have gone as far as sticking physical plastic mini-sticks onto your touch screen, but it ultimately comes down to actual physical controllers being the best solution for twin-stick gaming on mobile.
There are a number of controller solutions out there. Some manufacturers have decided to wrap controllers around your iOS device, turning your iPhone into some kind of knock-off Nintendo Switch of PS Vita. But my problem with these solutions are that their sticks are usually smaller than what we are used to using on consoles, and with every year the form factor of your iPhone changes, so much so that soon you may not be able to wrap these around your device for much longer.
Today, every mobile device supporting the wireless Bluetooth protocol, so a wireless Bluetooth controller, to me, seems like the perfect solution here. You could say that, if you’re playing with a separate controller, you might as well play on your console, and you’ll be right in thinking that if you are playing at home. But think about the times you could be away from your console, on holiday, at work, with friends. This could even be your only gaming device, or maybe your TV/display might be occupied by your partner catching up on the latest boxset. A dedicated controller can swiftly turn touch-screen twin-stick gaming from complete frustration into an absolute pleasure.
We’ve already reviewed a number of MFI (Made For iPhone) controllers here on Console Monster. The SteelSeries Stratus and FREE were fairly decent controllers, however both felt a little too compact for adult-size hands, especially over long periods of use. These controllers needed to be bigger, with buttons and sticks that mimic the size and location of controllers we are accustomed to using on our Xbox or PlayStation console. The SteelSeries Nimbus is an MFI controller for iOS devices that fills this void. It is a well made and nicely featured controller, and it is likely to be the best solution out there for mobile gaming at the moment.
Out of the box, the Nimbus is charged up and ready to go. Pairing the controller is super smooth and easy. With Bluetooth enabled on your iOS device and a quick press of the controller’s ON switch, then you choose the controller from the available devices in your Bluetooth settings menu. Once paired the controller will reconnect when it is next switched on, making this process much more seamless.
Once paired for the first time to your iOS device, you’ll be asked to download the SteelSeries Nimbus Companion App from the Apple App Store. I would highly recommend you do this, as it is a great way to find compatible apps that are being drowned amongst the millions of other apps and games out there. Not all supported games will be listed here however, but it is a good starting point and the fastest way to get your controller working with the right games.
Some of the best games that work well with the Nimbus and who may not be covered by the SteelSeries app are: Impossible Road, Jetpack Joyride, Joe Danger Infinity, Leo’s Fortune, Micro Machines, Pixel Cup 16, Smash Heat, Sunday Lawn, Super Hexagon, Table Top Racing, Traffic Racer, Horizon Chase, Reckless Racing 3, Badlands and Bike Baron.
Due to regular updates, some games that are mentioned in the app are no longer compatible with the Nimbus, so it is a process of downloading each one and trying them out. Some games do work well, whereas some games that are designed for touch screen don’t really carry over to well with a physical controller. World of Tanks Blitz, for example, feels way too slow using sticks to rotate your turret, compared to using touch gestures on screen, so you’ll find yourself at a bit of a disadvantage against other players.
The Nimbus also works when paired to an Apple TV 4th Generation device. Once paired, you can play an wide selection of games on your TV, which makes for a great gaming machine for little ones or people on a budget, as there’s a vast library of free games to play on the App Store, compared to consoles.
The layout of the Nimbus is like a love child of OnLive, Sony and Microsoft controllers. The overall form factor looks and feels like an OnLive controller. The sticks are located similarly to a PlayStation DuelShock controller, whilst the X/Y/A/B face buttons mimic the size and position of an Xbox One controller. A large centre Menu button toggles pause in most iOS games I’ve tried, whilst the D-Pad located on the top left feels like it could also take some heavy use.
On the top portion of the controller you’ll find the usual layout of L1/R1 buttons and L2/R2 triggers. The L1/R1 buttons do not carry too much travel in them, whilst there is some generous travel to the L2/R2 analogue triggers. Both sets of triggers and buttons feel solid and are a decent quality.
Between the triggers you’ll find the power on/off button, the Bluetooth pairing button and the Lightning charging cable port, which requires a separate Lightning cable to charge the controller. It was a surprise to me to find that the Nimbus didn’t come bundled with a Lightning cable, so you’ll have to make sure you have your iPhone/iPad cable with you, and a powered USB port close by to plug it in to. I guess SteelSeries assumes you already have an iOS device. Even the Apple TV 4th-Gen remote requires charging from a Lightning cable, and it also doesn’t come bundled with one. So should you buy this controller just for use on an Apple TV, then you’re very likely to have a Lightning cable with you.
Up to four Nimbus controllers can we paired at once, with one of the four lights illustrating which player number you are. With only one controller I couldn’t test this feature, but it is good that the support is there for it, even though there isn’t many iOS games featuring local multiplayer. These lights also help to learn about the controller’s battery level and pairing status.
Retailing for £49.95 RRP (£46.99 from Amazon), the Nimbus controller is a well rounded controller for iOS gaming. There are already some killer iOS apps out there that make use of MFI controllers. Whether you’re playing on an iPhone, an iPad or Apple TV, the SteelSeries Nimbus is well supported for all the games out there, and with over 500 games releasing on the platform each day, I am sure there’s many more to come too. If touch-screen gaming has got you down in the dumps, then give an MFI controller a go, and make sure the SteelSeries Nimbus is at the top of your list. You wont regret it.