iGUGU Gamecore Review
Let me start by saying that iGUGU Gamecore is a classic idea. It embodies what every gamer has at one point or another wished existed, something long overdue: a device that converts PC controls to console controls with a universal hub, and manages to include a full, albeit tiny and cheap, keyboard as well. The real question is, why has this not been done before? Well, in testing out the Gamecore device, I think I discovered the answer.
The Gamecore controller is basically just the XBox 360 controller with an awkward-looking, yet strangely comfortable mini-keyboard attached to the bottom. It feels and controls like its mainstream counterpart, except for one huge and prominent exception: instead of having a second analog stick like a PS3 controller, or four buttons like Microsoft’s, it has what I consider to be my old arch-nemesis, the devilishly hard to use trackball. And I’m not saying theirs is worse than others; trackballs are always painfully hard to use in my opinion, and I try to stay away from them at all costs. I got a chance to speak with the President of iGUGU, Isaac Calderon, about this design choice, and pointed out that while the trackball may be necessary for PC screen navigation, it is abysmally frustrating for actual gameplay. I suggested that they just throw the trackball elsewhere on the controller and in its place put another analog stick. I mean, consoles have had plenty of time to perfect the model, why mess with it just to try to mimic mouse functionality? It didn’t make a ton of sense, and to my surprise, Mr. Calderon completely agreed with me, admitting that the current design was the lesser of many evils.
I was able to play Batman: Arkham Asylum and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 with the standard controller. Battlefield was near impossible to control with the trackball (Calderon claims that it takes 10-15 minutes to get used to, at which point it controls like a dream; I can’t comment on this, since I couldn’t bring myself to keep playing that long), but Batman actually felt pretty much like it does on the XBox, once I got used to the controls. Even so, I just don’t see what the point is; the XBox controls are still superior, and PC gaming has become such an expensive niche that pretty much all PC gamers have made a point to choose mouse and keyboard.
It feels like a great idea that came a decade too late. Are there really that many PC gamers who spend money and time upgrading their system just to get the standard console experience? The games that best take advantage of console controls are action adventures, sports games, and fighters, but fans of those genres probably own a console for that very reason. I just don’t see this being a big demographic, and I predict that iGUGU will have trouble pushing their Gamecore product for this reason.
I should mention that I also got a chance to use their motion controller, and it functioned like the PS3 Sixaxis. They game they had demoed with these controls was Grid. I have not played Grid with a standard console motion controller, so I don’t know if I can blame iGUGU for this, but let me say here that they were probably the most abysmal controls I have ever attempted to use on any game ever. It was literally impossible to steer a car for more than a few yards down the track. I’ll spare iGUGU their pride and leave it at that.
The iGUGU Gamecore is an obvious idea that unfortunately seems to a fill a niche that I suspect just isn’t there. Altering the trackball would certainly make it slightly more useful, but even then I doubt many gamers really need this technology anymore. In a world where consoles are king and almost all games are multiplatform, an $80 peripheral that converts an expensive PC system into a cheaper console experience just doesn’t make a ton of sense.