Review: ThinkGeek’s Joystick-It Arcade Stick for iPhone

Some people just hate the iPhone’s touchscreen, period. Now, why they would even buy one, I don’t know but according to our poll from a few weeks ago, a small minority of our readers prefer an external keyboard over the virtual one currently on the iDevice. These same number of people probably dislike some kinds of gaming as well. But just as there were solutions to people’s dislike before, there are solutions to help people’s dislike about gaming now too.

ThinkGeek’s Joystick-It Arcade Stick is the predecessor of their iPad arcade joystick, adapted to fit on iPhones and iPod Touches. The product, shaped like a single, mini joystick, aids in some types of gaming that involve on-screen, virtual control pads/sticks.

With a single suction cup on the bottom, you can stick the Joystick-It to your iPhone or iPod Touch where the virtual joystick would normally have been and start playing in the hopes that the external joystick may bring back a nostalgia for your previous days (older gamers) and maybe improve your scores. The soft material on the bottom of the joystick acts as your finger on the iPhone’s and iPod Touch’s capacitive touchscreens, as when you move the joystick in whatever direction, it makes contact with the screen. The joystick is pretty responsive, and once you get used to a “physical” control pad, gaming becomes a lot easier with them.

The joystick itself is pretty physically attractive, as well. It’s got a metallic finish throughout the span of its mini body, a laser-etched design on the top, which also provides traction for your playing finger and a constant gleam always reflecting off of the polished surface. The metal-related material used in making them is evidently very durable.

If you attach the suction cup properly, it shouldn’t fall off, though if you’re playing pretty vigorously they pop off of the screen sometimes. This is because the joystick moves as a whole; it’s not like the top part moves, while the base keeps a firm grip. It’s not bad, but it can be pretty annoying if you’re in the middle of a game and you are interrupted, especially if you’re on some sort of personal record or streak!

While playing my games, I was really only wishing the Joystick-It had one extra feature: transparency. Sure it’s lose its look, but most of the time the base is obtrusive. If you have different buttons near where the on-screen control pads are in your games, they are usually not accessible. And if there are conversation bubbles at the bottom of the screen, like in many RPGs, then only some of the text is visible. Though it’s the only gripe I had, it’s a pretty big one because you can be missing out on a whole story or not able to play properly. Kind of ironic when they’re meant to be improving your gameplay but they’re also contradicting themselves by hurting your gameplay.

There are almost an infinite number of games available on the app store that can be played using these joysticks. I’ve taken Halfbrick’s Age of Zombies and played a quick game using them (Don’t laugh! I hadn’t gotten used to the feel yet, and it’s difficult to play through your camera’s screen!):

But like I was saying, there are tons of compatible games. To list a few, RPGs such as Zenonia, Inotia, Queen’s Crown and more are all playable as well as dual-stick shooters and some arcade games with joysticks. There will never be a moment where you can’t use the Joystick-It.

With portability being a huge advantage, you really can’t, in your right mind, miss out on these wonderfully designed helpers. I could do without, personally, but little accessories like this are my weak spot. If it’s the same with you or if you simply cannot play without, take the plunge. It’s just a sort of novelty to be owning. ThinkGeek’s Joystick-It is sold $17.99. They are sold as single joysticks, so I recommend purchasing two to make the list of compatible games even larger.