Hardware Review: Rotor Riot Game and Drone Controller for iPhone

Product: Rotor Riot Game and Drone Controller for iPhone
Manufacturer:Roto Riot
Original MSRP:$49.99 USD (Amazon link)
This product was provided by the manufacturer for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

When Rotor Riot initially offered to send us a mobile phone controller for review, we were a little confused. While PS Nation has expanded to review some hardware, movies, and other nerd products, we haven’t done much in the mobile market. However, upon realizing that you can play PS4 games on your phone, thanks to Remote Play, we decided that there would be value in a review of the controller for our audience and Remote Play will be something I cover a lot. Though of course I’ll touch on the other uses.

First, setting up the Rotor Riot controller was completely painless. The controller uses a physical plug (more on that later) and upon plugging it into my phone it just worked. It did prompt me to download their app, which can be used to update the controller or download compatible games, but it didn’t seem necessary as I jumped straight into Remote Play while the app was still downloading and everything worked. Oddly, the only issue I ended up having was not my initial connection, but one later where it took a few plug/unplugs before it seemed to connect properly. Still, it didn’t take much to get it running even in that situation.

Despite being set up with an XBox style controller and button labels, I didn’t run into any issues playing PS4 remote play games. All of the buttons were properly mapped and the analog sticks both worked correctly. This controller even has clickable analog sticks for the L3/R3 buttons that are used in some games, which is uncommon among phone controllers. One obvious downside is that the controller being XBox style means that the buttons aren’t labeled to your game, which could be confusing for some players. The the analog sticks are offset, which I personally don’t care for but may actually be a plus for others.

The controller doesn’t replicate every button on the PS4 controller, unfortunately. Where the PS4 has the share, options, touch pad, and PS button in the center, the Rotor Riot only has a “menu” button, which seemed to be mapped to options. Fortunately, the share and PS button can be easily accessed on the phone’s touch screen and aren’t as pivotal to second-to-second gameplay. The touch pad can also be accessed via the phone’s touch screen and that’s the one that could be tough to replicate in the few games that heavily use the touch pad.

While it’s not a downside to the controller itself, I do feel like I have to point out that PS4’s remote play can be sketchy. I’ve tested remote play a few times, including from several states away, and the combination of lag and touch screen controls made it virtually unplayable to me, except for turn-based games. This controller fixes the touch screen controls but the inherent lag in remote play is still there.

I did play a few races of Crash Team Racing and was able to control my kart well, but there was still a small but noticeable disconnect between my inputs and the on-screen movement. And that was sitting six feet from my console. I also played Slay the Spire, which I found to be a lot more palatable with the controller and would be a lot better to play when away from the console.

To make sure the lag was indeed on the remote play side, I played a couple of games directly on my phone which supported the controller. When playing locally, the games were a lot more responsive so the controller is definitely not at fault. Side note: the controller also works with many popular drones, as that is Rotor Riot’s main business. So consider that another positive if you often use phone-based drones. Another strange side note: I downloaded one game via their app, meaning it should be supported, and I couldn’t get the controller to work. Only happened with one of the three games I tried though.

Hardware wise, the controller is good but not great. It definitely doesn’t have as good of a feel as a normal console quality controller like the DualShock. It feels a little flimsier, perhaps because it is lighter. And while most of the face buttons have a good push feel, the shoulder buttons left me wanting. The analog sticks I found to be good though, and the aforementioned L3/R3 ability adds extra utility for remote play.

The controller being lighter is good though, since the package comes with a clamp to hold your phone to the controller. With the phone attached, the whole thing is about on par or a little heavier than a DualShock (at least with my iPhone XR). However, one unfortunate thing I found when I got sucked into playing Slay the Spire with it, is that since I’m holding the controller up to my face instead of in my lap, my arms did get fatigued after only an hour or so of play. I don’t think I’d want to do longer sessions like this.

The phone attachment also puts the phone over part of the controller, which is better for weight balance but also made it feel cramped, like my fingers would hit the phone when switching between buttons. The attachment can be removed, if you have a different way to prop the phone or if you’re using a tablet or larger phone.

Part of the reason the controller is light on its own is that it doesn’t have a battery. Rather than connect wirelessly, it attaches directly via a wire (in my case, lightning plug for iPhone but they have a version for Android as well) and draws power from the phone. I didn’t find it to be especially bad on my battery, or at least any more so than playing a game without it. And the controller includes a pass through port on the bottom, so you can charge while you play (note: apparently Rotor Riot’s previous controller did not have a pass through, so if you decide to buy one, make sure you find the latest version).

Finally, the package I was sent included a carrying case for the controller. As it wasn’t in the box with the controller, I don’t know if it is normally included but Amazon listings make it seem like it isn’t. It seems like a nice way to toss the controller in a bag to bring it along (and not have to worry about the cord getting caught or the sticks getting mushed). Strangely though, the phone attachment bracket doesn’t fit nicely in the case and only by finagling things could I get both to fit. Not a huge deal (and won’t factor into the review since I think the case isn’t included) but worth mentioning.

Conclusion:
Overall, I was impressed with the Rotor Riot controller. Set-up was completely painless and the wired connection is brilliant for not requiring extra batteries or having pairing issues. The controller isn’t quite at the quality of most console controllers, but it’s more than sufficient for a product like this. On it’s own, the Rotor Riot controller is easy to recommend for mobile games and drone flying. Since it would be unfair to score the controller based on other factors, the score at the end of this review will reflect the quality of the controller itself.

For console players, unfortunately the mediocre remote play is a factor. If you can, I would highly advise testing your use case before dropping half a Benjamin. Boot up the remote play app and try moving around the menus in the setting you plan to play in: across the house, at a friend’s place, at grandma’s, etc, and see if you get performance you can deal with. If you’re on Android, I believe you can already pair a DualShock to your phone to try out remote play and iOS will allow DualShock pairing in the fall iOS update. If you’re okay with the performance, this controller will make it much easier to play and has an advantage over carrying around a DualShock in not requiring batteries or pairing. If you’re getting a lot of lag though, no controller will help that. The best use case for the Rotor Riot Controller is probably if you play a lot of mobile games in addition to console games, and the remote play feature will be a bonus rather than the main draw.

Score:
8.0

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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