When it comes to playing console ports and more complex mobile games on-the-go, the lack of a physical controller has always proved to be troublesome. While some of the platform’s best games are designed with a touchscreen in mind, many titles that originate on other platforms — shooters, 3D adventures, and action games — don’t always fare well with basic touch controls. Enter the Rotor Riot, a mobile game controller that, at first glance, provides plenty of functionality, while offering up sturdier build quality — something that can’t be said for its competitors. After spending more than a dozen hours (across multiple devices), it’s safe to say that its utility and value proposition will live or die by the overlap of games you enjoy playing, and games the Rotor Riot supports.
Once you get your hands on the device for the first time, you’ll probably notice the giant wire directly attached to it. Yep, for better or for worse, the Rotor Riot needs to be plugged into the Lightning port of an iPhone or iPad in order to be used (there’s a USB-C version for those playing on Android). If you happen to be playing on an iPhone, a built-in mounting system allows you to clip your phone right to the controller, making for a truly portable — if not somewhat clunky — gaming setup. The clip worked just fine with my iPhone X, even with a protective case, and I’ve also tested it (briefly) on a few older iPhone models as well. As you might expect, iPads won’t fit into this clip, but chances are, most iPad owners have a case with a built-in stand.
In order to actually get this thing working in-game, you’ll need to install a free app called Ludu Mapp, which provides a list of compatible games. This is one area which might sour some potential customers. Personally, I found a handful of games (Bastion, five different Final Fantasy ports, Inside) that work perfectly fine with the Rotor Riot, but there’s a chance that your favorite games won’t be supported. Some heavy hitters are included — yes, that means Fortnite, though PUBG is still not supported — but you’re better off looking up your favorite games before you take the plunge.
Once you do jump into a game, you’ll find that the Rotor Riot is a responsive and well-built controller. The twin joysticks feel smooth and slick, and the device doesn’t feel too heavy, which would certainly prove problematic during longer gaming sessions. The buttons are responsive, and unlike other controllers, the Rotor Riot comes with L3 and R3 buttons, providing parity with your standard Xbox One controller.
If there’s one drawback — other than the sometimes hit or miss list of compatible games — it’s the lack of a built-in battery. You see, aside from using the Lightning port to send and receive information, the Rotor Riot lacks any sort of internal battery, and has no support for standard AA batteries, for example. This means that the controller is powered from the device you happen to be playing on. This didn’t prove troublesome when playing something on an iPad — which has a fairly decent battery life, even when gaming — but when it comes to playing on a phone, things can get dicey if you begin to run out of battery. Short of using a wireless charger (which would be near impossible to do when the phone is mounted onto the controller) or investing in a Lightning port splitter, there’s no way to charge your phone while continuing to game with the Rotor Riot. This might not bother those who only play in short bursts, but it does severely hamper the potential for those looking to log a few hours playing Fortnite.
Unlike most other gaming products, it’s difficult to provide a blanket recommendation for the Rotor Riot. Before you even think about purchasing one, it’s almost necessary to look up if your favorite games are supported in the first place. Once you’ve cleared that hurdle — and come to terms with the battery life — it’s hard to complain with what’s on offer, since few mobile gaming controllers offer this much functionality to begin with.
This review is based on the iPhone/iPad version of the controller. A review unit was provided by Rotor Riot.
While the Rotor Riot Mobile Game Controller provides plenty of functionality, your interest will live and die by its list of compatible games, and your willingness to put up with its lack of built-in battery.