Despite being around almost as long as smartphones, it’s fair to say that Bluetooth mobile gaming controllers haven’t really penetrated into the mainstream.
What makes this strange is that they’re absolutely essential pieces of kit for anybody who takes gaming remotely seriously.
Touchscreens are fine for many genres, and perfect for simple puzzlers like Candy Crush.
They even inspired several new gaming genres after the iPhone launched in 2007 and mobile gaming took off in a big way.
But they’re absolutely rubbish for platformers, action games, and other genres built around the traditional input of buttons.
Bluetooth controllers are the answer, but so far no manufacturer has come up with a design that’s actually compact and effective enough to be worth carrying around with you alongside your smartphone.
The Jacknife Gamer is an ultra-portable device, no larger than a box of matches, created in the garage of product designer Duncan Mao.
Having patented the idea and assembled some units, Duncan sold the Jacknife Gamer at his local night market in Canada. The response was so enthusiastic that he decided to take it to the big leagues, putting the product up for sale on Amazon last December.
We reckon it’s going to go far.
Why? Because it ticks every box. For one thing, it’s small enough to carry around without thinking about, which is essential in a mobile phone peripheral. It’s weird how many manufacturers fail to realize that.
For another thing, it actually clips onto your phone to create a single, seamless device, avoiding another pitfall that many other manufacturers fall into.
Nobody wants to hold a separate controller while gaming on a 6-inch screen.
The Jacknife Gamer can clamp onto devices that are up to 86mm wide, which means it can comfortably fit around even massive models like the Galaxy Note20 Ultra and the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
And once the Jacknife Gamer is in place, your phone is effectively a portable console, with an impressive total of 12 different button inputs with easy reach of your fingers and thumbs.
There are four directional buttons, XYAB buttons, a start button, a select button, and R and L bumpers handily positioned at the back.
Duncan has really nailed the ergonomics, doing away with the traditional diamond layout of the XYAB buttons and placing the bumpers where your ring fingers rest for ease of access.
You can check out the official YouTube channel to see it in action.
The tech is pretty slick, too. The Jacknife Gamer connects with your phone using Bluetooth 5.0, ensuring fast and stable performance. To pair it, all you need to do is switch it on and find it in your phone’s Bluetooth settings.
Once connected, the Jacknife Gamer is in it for the long haul, with a battery that supports around 60 hours of uninterrupted gameplay. Your phone will blink out many times over before your controller does.
And on the-off chance that you do mistime your charges, you can simply charge your Jacknife Gamer directly from your phone using the cable supplied.
You can play tens of thousands of games using a Bluetooth controller like the Jacknife Gamer, but it can be hard to know which ones work best with physical controls.
Fortunately, Duncan is an expert. He’s currently maintaining a list of titles that he enjoyed playing with the Jacknight Gamer on his website, and he’s keen to hear your suggestions too.
Certain genres clearly work better than others, with platformers, action games, and top-down RPGs all benefiting from physical controls.
Games that are available on multiple platforms inevitably work best with buttons, and you can get the most out of titles like Bloodstained – Ritual of the Night, Stardew Valley, Table Top Racing, Another World, and Wayward Souls, and many more with the Jacknife Gamer.
Even better, the Jacknife Gamer lets you experience mobile-only games like Pascal’s Wager in their best light, and without sacrificing any of the convenience and portability you prize in your smartphone.
Head to the official Jacknife Gamer website and learn more.