The controller’s namesake, the spring-loaded back plate, ensures that once the phone is in place, everything feels solid and unified. The controls won’t move away, nor is there a chance your phone will slip. The more I spent playing Alan Wakethen deathloopas well as Apple Arcade titles like fallen knight and Fantasy, the more he started to get confused on a handheld – one with a high-resolution OLED screen. Unfortunately, you will have to remove all the boxes to ensure it fits inside the controller chassis.
The companion app has some useful tricks. It can capture, edit and upload game content and is quite intuitive. I don’t usually capture gameplay unless it’s for work, but I’ve used Backbone’s implementation to send short clips to friends. The company also announced a Backbone+ subscription service that integrates Twitch streaming and even allows cable connections for keyboards and more. (You’ll get a free year of service when you buy the controller.) There’s also the ability to join chat groups and lobbies, filled with other Backbone players, but it’s not particularly vibrant compared to Discord, Reddit, or other spaces. of existing players.
The app also serves as a game library, of all the games you can play with Backbone One, on Xbox, Stadia, Apple Arcade, and individual games on Apple’s App Store. Sadly, that’s literally every game that’s compatible, including regular game clones and Xbox and Stadia titles that you might not even have a subscription to. It’s a shame the app can’t interact with the games I’ve already installed – which would be impossible for PlayStation Remote Play, admittedly. Tapping the Backbone button during a game will register the title in the library for more convenient access next time, at least. There is deeper functionality here, but your mileage may vary. It will show recommendations for popular titles, but it’s the incredibly familiar sights of Among Us, Genshin Impact and Minecraft.
The Backbone One is a capable iPhone gamepad, so much so that I sometimes actively choose to play Stadia and even play PlayStation remotely when I’m in another room. It is, however, an expensive one. $100 can buy a few PS5 controllers or a whole box of third-party Bluetooth gamepads and smartphone clips.
But for that price, you get a sleek experience that goes well with your iPhone. During the holidays when I visited my family, I was able to play effortlessly (besides reading the small text) deathloop being hundreds of miles away from my console. Like many existing split player pads for smartphones, it’s like a small Switch. The app also tries to bring together all of your iOS gaming experiences in one place, which is a good idea even if Backbone doesn’t get the run right.
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