Review: Duo Pinball, Duo Gamer and Thomas & Friends gaming accessories for iPad
December 10, 2012 by Beatweek
Beatweek Top Lifestyle Product for 2013
With the iPad increasingly emerging as a gaming device, albeit one whose experience is entirely touchscreen and virtual, Discovery Bay has decided that certain types of gameplay might be more fun with the addition of physical interactivity. That concept is the driving force behind Duo Pinball, Duo Gamer, and Duo Thomas & Friends, three hardware accessories which interact with iPad games which you can get from the App Store.
Duo Pinball is a $59 hard plastic table-like device which allows you to slide your iPad at an angle to essentially become a pinball playing surface, and adds a pair of side buttons and a pull lever. It’s compatible with a free App Store app called Pinball HD Collection, which includes games. Standard pinball apps tend to do a suitable job of simulating a pull lever, but the virtual buttons usually end up taking up screen space which could have been devoted to the pinball screen – and never quite manage to simulate what a “real” pinball machine feels like in an arcade. In my gameplay with Duo Pinball, I found that gameplay was indeed very much like arcade play, at least in terms of concept. The device pairs up with your iPad via bluetooth by pressing a couple buttons.
Duo Gamer is a $39 gaming pad, complete with A-B-X-Y and up-down-left-right buttons plus a pair of control knobs and front buttons, along with a stand for positioning the iPad upright. The controls will feel familiar to anyone who owns a gaming console, and it’s cable free thanks to bluetooth. As with Duo Pinball, this gadget solves the problem game developers face trying to overlay virtual controls onto a full screen gaming environment. Duo Gamer is aimed largely at first person shooter games, currently compatible with five App Store games including Modern Combat 3, Brothers In Arms 2, and a racing game called Asphalt Heat 7. Gameplay turns out to be about what you’d expect: your iPad is sitting upright on your table or desk in front of you, and you’re controlling the action on it with a traditional console controller. It should appeal to a wider swath of users once it’s compatible with NFL Pro 2013, which Duo says is coming soon.
Thomas & Friends Steam Team Station is aimed squarely at young kids. The $39 device relies not on bluetooth but instead on sound activation. The iPad docks sideways in the middle of a train station, and kids can insert certain plastic cards when prompted to in order to trigger various activities. It works in conjunction with the free Steam Team Station app, along with an optional second app which sells for $1.99. Unlike Pinball and Gamer, this one is more about triggering the imagination of the kids using it, and immersing them in the gameplay such that they’re eager to get up and jump and spin around when the game calls for it. It also makes sure that the iPad remains safely in place during these physical activities, rather than being tossed aside or stepped on.
The obvious limitation with all three of these accessories is that they’re each only compatible with a handful of games which have been specifically coded to work with them. But of all the various types of iPad games out there, it turns out that pinball, shoot em ups, and kids games are certainly three areas in which more fun can be had by adding physical interaction to the iPad’s otherwise virtual environment. Bottom line: these Duo devices are fun, and while they’re limited, they’re also inexpensive and adept at what they’re specifically designed to do. They’re each compatible with all four iPad generations, but not the iPad mini.