Mobile gaming has reached dizzying heights, but no amount of shiny graphics and fancy 3D renders can make up for the fact that for many games touchscreen controls just don’t cut it.
We're not talking about the likes of Candy Crush Saga or Fruit Ninja of course - they're perfectly adapted to frantic finger swipes.
But first person shooters, racers, and anything else that requires precision and multiple inputs, have always suffered with on-screen buttons.
And that's where smartphone gamepads come in. Android users have had the benefit of gamepads for quite a few years, and while iOS arrived to the party a little late, there's enough of a selection to save gamers from the on-screen button curse.
Now joining the likes of the Moga Ace Power and Logitech Powershell is the Razer Junglecat. Is it the one pad to rule them all?
Chunky and littered with buttons
There's no two ways about it - your iPhone does look fat in this. But that’s simply the price you pay for physical buttons, and you’re unlikely to want to use the Junglecat as a permanent case.
Control-wise, the Junglecat has a D-Pad, a pause button, and four ABXY buttons. There are two triggers around the back, which are a welcome addition, although we're a little disappointed not to see two on each side.
When the iPhone 5s is slotted into the Junglecat its Lightning charger port is obscured. The upside of this is that you can finally join your Android friends in the swanky microUSB charging club.
Of course there are also cut-outs for the headphone jack and camera.
Two front-facing speakers are built-in, but they’re not actually any louder than the iPhone 5s' regular ones.
The Junglecat's sliding mechanism feels sturdy, although it would have been nice if had an adjustable tilting mechanism too.
And the buttons and rear triggers feel a little too plasticky for our liking. A matte rubber finish would have felt more premium and less cheap in the hands.
More after the break...
The Razer Junglecat iOS companion app is a one-stop-shop for all compatible iOS games. While the library is a respectable size, the app wasn't available to download at the time of writing, so we were unable to browse it in full (or adjust the controller sensitivity settings for that matter).
There are plenty of top titles to choose from, including racers such as Asphalt 8 and Sonic & All-Stars Racing, and shooters like Dead Trigger 2.
And as for how the controls feel?
Racing around the tarmac on Asphalt 8 is certainly a lot better than using the accelerometer controls, and given that Asphalt 8's controls are actually among the best motion controls we've used, that's quite a compliment.
You simply cannot beat real buttons when it comes to precise corners, drifting and lining up headshots, and the Junglecat's physical controls make you feel as though you’re on a Nintendo handheld.
But buttons need to be pressed harder than you’d expect to register, while the buttons and triggers offer no resistance but are instead spongy. The sticks, too, lack subtlety, and we initially had plenty of car crashes thanks to our careful cornering being registered as no cornering at all.
Once you get used to it and compensate you’ll be winning in no time, but Razer needs to adjust the resistance and button sensitivity for a more natural, console-like experience.
Perhaps the companion app’s sensitivity settings will fix this issue - we’ll certainly update this review if that turns out to be the case.
The fact that dedicated controllers for iPhones are now properly supported is an undeniably Good Thing, but we haven’t yet found a really great one.
The Razer Junglecat doesn’t do that.
It’s a bit big and it feels a bit cheap, and while we might forgive that if it actually was cheap. The Junglecat is S$130, which is around the same price as the Moga Ace Power, a controller that also feels well below premium but has more accurate controls.
A matte finish and tweaked button resistance could make the Junglecat a very formidable controller, as would a bit of a price cut, but for now it’s just another also-ran in the iPhone gamepad race.