Most Android mobile games don’t translate well to a TV experience for one reason: They’re designed to be played on a touchscreen. There are games that work with a gamepad, but they need to be optimized for it, and not every game is. Using smartphones and tablets as controllers is also a no-no since you constantly have to look down at them to see where you’re tapping or swiping.
A new Kickstarter project called Zrro claims it can bring a touchscreen gaming experience that doesn’t suck to the TV, with a controller that uses “hover” technology.
The Zrro is two things: An Android 4.4 “KitKat”-powered micro-console and a controller. The box is as powerful] as any typical Android smartphone or tablet. It has a 2.0GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage that’s expandable up to 32GB via microSD card.
But the real treat is the controller. When you hover your fingers over the touch panel on the controller, you can actually see their positions right on the TV. This allows you to keep your eyes on the big screen while using touchscreen controls.
Zrro co-founder and CEO Ori Rimon says the Zrro gamepad has an advantage over other Android micro-consoles that use controllers with analog sticks and buttons because it works with over 1 million existing Android games and apps — no optimization required.
I’ve been playing with a Zrro prototype — it’s so rough the exposed Bluetooth dongle is external and not internal — for the last few days and while the hover technology sounds futuristic, there’s a steep learning curve to using it. My thumbs got tired from constantly hovering and bringing them down when I needed to tap something.
Rimon tells me I’ll get used to it like his two toddlers did, but even after a few days I’ve yet to master hover input. A dual-analog controller with physical buttons still beats the Zrro when it comes to precision and speed.
Simple games that have easy swiping gestures or tapping gameplay like Fruit Ninja work fine with a little practice, but more complex games like Grand Theft Auto San Andreas just don’t work well when you’re hovering your fingers around and trying to tap at tiny onscreen buttons. The controller’s got built-in motion controls so you can tilt it around in games like Riptide GP2, but that’s not even a problem when you’re using a smartphone or tablet as a game controller.
I get what Zrro is trying to do and I understand the problems it’s looking to solve with the hover and touch controller, but it’s not very practical. If you want to play touchscreen games, play them on your smartphone or tablet — you’ll get a more authentic experience. If you want to play games on your TV, get a PS4 or Xbox One or a Wii U where the games and the controllers are specifically designed to work for a TV experience.
Ultimately, there’s a reason why games for the TV don’t have touchscreens or hover controllers: They’re not as precise and don’t work as well as traditional controllers.
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