OnLive expands to Android phones and tablets

Streaming games service OnLive is expanding its offering to Android tablets and phones today, enabling gamers to play modern PC and console games on their mobile devices. A new OnLive controller, shipping later this week, will allow gamers to play every game available in the OnLive catalog on their phone. But for now, a select catalog of touch-enabled games can be trialed on the Android app.

Some of the games currently available through OnLive streaming for Android include Bastion, Darksiders, Dirt 3, and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II Chaos Rising. A limited time promo encourages gamers to try the service, unlocking a free copy of LEGO Batman.

The OnLive app requires Gingerbread (Android 2.3), and has been tested on a number of popular devices: Acer Iconia Tab A500, ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, HTC Evo View, HTC Flyer, HTC Jetstream, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Sony Ericsson Tablet S, Toshiba Thrive, HTC EVO, HTC Nexus One, HTC Rezound 4G, HTC Sensation, HTC Sensation XL, Motorola Droid 2, Motorola Droid X2, Motorola DROID BIONIC 4G, Motorola DROID RAZR 4G, Motorola Photon 4G, Samsung Galaxy S II 4G.

I tested the new client on a Samsung Galaxy S II with both wi-fi and WiMAX 4G. I was impressed by the fluidity of playback on both wi-fi and mobile connections. Presumably, the lower resolution of the mobile screen (540p instead of 1080p+ for computer monitors) makes for more lax bandwidth requirements.

I wasn't impressed by the implementation of the virtual controls, however. In every game I tested, including Darksiders and Dirt 3, I found using the virtual analog stick dificult, and the on-screen buttons to be confusing. This is not an ideal way of playing games, to say the least. The controller should alleviate control concerns, but the real question is this: do you want to ride the bus, tablet in your lap, with a wireless controller in your hand? (I couldn't test the controller, as that is not available for sale until later this week.)

Although the currently library of touch-enabled games is quite small, OnLive promises to make all games on the platform touch-enabled in the future.

One of the more exciting developments in the pipeline for OnLive is the addition of modern games adapted for touch screen play. LA Noire, Rockstar's big-budget crime adventure game, will be the first game "developed specifically for touch-enabled play" that will be exclusive to OnLive. Although the game was supposed to be ready in time for today's mobile launch, the touch-enabled version of LA Noire is still MIA.

Despite some hiccups (especially with the library and virtual controls), OnLive's mobile deployment is, at the very least, a technical accomplishment. An iOS version for Apple devices is "coming soon."