THE revolution in mobile technology in recent years has transformed the gaming credentials of the humble smartphone, with high street handsets now able to run titles that were once the preserve of consoles.
Steelseries Stratus controller
Although the Flappy Bird phenomenon demonstrated that many mobile users continue to adore uncomplicated experiences, there is a growing catalogue of ambitious titles that is gradually blurring the lines between platforms.
The Stratus, from Danish firm Steelseries - best known for its range of premium gaming headsets - seeks to capitalise on this trend. A wireless controller inspired by traditional console aesthetics, it allows iOS gamers to eschew touchscreen controls in favour of the classic combination of D-pad, thumbsticks and buttons.
The Stratus is compact compared to the majority of similar devices. Rather than trying to imitate the dimensions of a standard gaming console controller, it measures just over six centimetres by 11 centimetres. For those who like to game on their iPhone, the reduced scale makes it an easy, portable option.
On the right of the chassis, there are four standard action buttons, while the left is taken up a by D-pad. The bottom of the unit has dual thumbsticks, with a pause button in the centre. A small LED also informs you which device the Stratus is hooked up to (it can connect with up to four devices, good for those who have separate rosters of games on iPad and iPhone).
The other controls - such as the power button and a Bluetooth pairing nub, are concealed on the underside and are well-positioned to avoid accidental presses, while the shoulder buttons take the form of four overlapping pressure sensitive bumpers - two on either side - that are easily distinguished without the need for a visual check.
Comfortable, but only for new iOS devices
Given the small size of the Stratus, the danger of this design is a crowded control panel that disrupts even the most nimble of players. But thanks to some cleverly positioned contours and grooves, it feels comfortable and responsive. Paired with an iPad, we experienced no lag, with button presses represented instantaneously on-screen.
For iOS titles with more complex control systems - such as the tenth anniversary edition of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - the Stratus comes into its own. Mechanics which felt unwieldy with the touchscreen are reinterpreted superbly. The gunplay - the biggest weakness with the game’s mobile translation - feels just as visceral as it did on the original Xbox and Playstation 2.
The usefulness of the Stratus, however, will largely depend on what kind of iOS devices you have.
Its compatibility with devices running iOS 7 only is disappointingly restrictive. It works with iPhone 5, 5C and 5S, iPad Mini, iPad Mini Retina, the fourth-generation iPad, iPad Air, and the fifth generation iPod Touch - meaning that if you are the proud owner of an Apple device that is a few years old and not on the list, the Stratus will not work with your kit.