SteelSeries Stratus Wireless Gaming Controller

What We Think

This is simply a novel accessory that doesn’t bring anything to the gaming experience, especially as App Store games are designed for iPad controls, not a hand held controller. Therefore the price is unjustifiable.

Accessory Review

The Stratus SteelSeries wireless game controller is the first Apple approved Bluetooth gaming controller for use with the iPad, iPhone and iPod, and it is styled after classic game console controllers.

The main drawback for the Stratus is the price, which is just under £60. I definitely don’t think this is value for money and is far too high for a novel accessory which is all the Stratus is.

Design: Dual analogue sticks are set in the middle of the controller, while a four way directional d-pad and a set of A,B,X,Y buttons adorn the faces. There are also four shoulder buttons. All buttons are pressure sensitive in order to “provide a superior gaming experience” and “precise control”.

The Stratus has been designed with portability in mind – something that works against it. It is made from a lightweight plastic that feels cheap considering the price. It is also very small – small enough to fit in a pocket, but  for me, this just means that the controller is cramped and it is too small for my hands.

The buttons of the device make an audible clicking sound when pressed, which some people will find annoying, and some will find satisfying, but the analogue sticks feel weak and thin, unlike the sticks on the classic controllers like those for the Xbox or Playstationm, so don’t expect quality similar to those of these gaming giants.

The controller comes with a press-on plastic cover that can fit the front to protect the buttons when in transit, or onto the back to bulk the controller out a bit and provide some extra grip, which is a nice feature and cleverly designed. It also comes with a cloth cover/bag to further protect it when carrying it around.

Performance: The Stratus connects to the iPad, iPod or iPhone using Bluetooth connectivity, but it can be a real pain to connect. Despite supposedly being simple to do, I had a lot of trouble getting it to work on the iPad initially. After a few tries, however, having completely disconnected the controller and telling the device to forget it before trying again, it worked fine.

When the controller does work, it works well. There is no noticeable lag between the controller and the device, and the button configuration follows a logical layout for the games I tested. But those are the only pros to its performance.

For some games, the controller worked for only some of the controls. When testing it with the paper airplane based game Air Wings, a game crossing WWII dog fights with schoolyard origami, I could boost the plane’s speed using the shoulder buttons, and fire spit balls at enemies using the A button, but I couldn’t steer using the controller at all and inevitably crashed within seconds. By default, the iPad is tilted to steer the plane, but this didn’t translate to the controller. It seems to be a lottery as to whether the controls will all be there or not on each game. The inclusion of an accelerometer would expand the use of the controller and make it more compatible for iPad games.

Use: By the very nature of the controller, you can’t hold the iPad while using it, so unless you have a case or a stand that will support it, you’re likely going to have to play with the iPad flat on a table. Many people do have cases that can make the tablet stand up however, so it won’t be a problem for most, but without one I would have a massive issue with it as it makes it hard to see the screen and puts an unnatural angle on it for game play.

The games that can be used with the controller are limited; although there is actually a huge library of games it is compatible with, it is not every game. However, games made for the iPad are generally made to be used by the iPad, and not an accessory. To this end, I found that it felt unnatural to use the controller on a lot of games, especially ones that incorporate tilting or swiping motions that are what make the iPad, and tablets in general, what they are.

And this led me to wonder just who the controller was aimed at. People who play games on the iPad probably do so because they like their iPad. So why would they pay a huge amount of money to use a completely different interface for it? ‘Veteran’ gamers are the people most likely to appreciate the controller, those people who grew up with the Xbox and Playstation. But then they are the least likely to want to play games on tablets because they will have their games consoles and full length, £40 video games to play on them instead.

Our Verdict

I personally don’t see the point in the Stratus wireless gaming controller. Which is fine, some people may find good use with it, and it could really enhance their gaming experience on the iPad, but not for this extortionate price.

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