Nyko PlayPad controller for Android impresses with backwards compatibility app

By Andrew Yoon, Jun 11, 2012 5:30pm PDT

While there are many great mobile games that work perfectly fine with touch controls, others are a bit lacking. Virtual control sticks and virtual buttons are a sufficient stopgap for some--but people like myself prefer the precision offered by physical buttons and analog sticks.

Nyko is the latest peripheral manufacturer to attempt creating a game pad for mobile devices. However, what makes their controller so unique is not the hardware itself--but bundled software that can ensure backwards compatibility with all mobile games.

The PlayPad comes in two varieties: a miniature offering that comes in a carrying case, and a "Pro" full-sized version. Both iterations of the controller include two analog sticks, a d-pad, face buttons, and shoulder buttons.

Nyko promises "no rooting required" to use the controller, as it will connect with any Android device 3.0 and higher with Bluetooth connectivity. It's also a fully compliant NVIDIA TegraZone controller. Games like Zen Pinball and Grand Theft Auto III will have all the buttons properly mapped, with no configuration necessary.

But what about the thousands of games that aren't part of the TegraZone program? Nyko's Playground app will help with that. The app will scan your device for games you've already purchased and download the appropriate files to properly map the controller. You'll also be able to browse the Playground to purchase legacy apps and download the corresponding button map.

If an app doesn't support Tegra, and isn't featured in the Playground app, you'll still be able to program your own controls. It's not the easiest process in the world, but it is quite clever. First, you must take a screenshot from within your game. Then, load up Playground. You'll be able to touch whatever virtual buttons appear on the screen and assign them to PlayPad's corresponding keys.

Given the lack of any real "standards" in the Android gaming scene, Nyko's solution seems to be the most flexible of all. The PlayPad and Playground app will be available later this year.

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