Review: Genius Pandora Pro Portable USB Gamepad

I’ve always wanted a portable game machine that can play my old emulated games. But I’ve never really found anything easy enough to carry with my on trips. Most PC, USB based gamepads are large; mainly because they have form factors modeled after Playstation or XBox controllers, which aren’t really for the road warrior. I recently found on Amazon the Genius Pandora Pro Folding USB Gamepad, which seems to answer my prayers.

The gamepad comes in a nice padded case, with a retractable USB cord. It uses a standard mini-USB connector which connects to the top of the gamepad. The gamepad itself is quite compact and folds up nicely. The only complaint I have is the plastic feels a bit cheap. The left side of the controller is a PSP style thumb pad, which I think actually works better than a standard four direction D-pad (the old style plus sign directional controls). ┬áThe left side also has a turbo button and a button below it labeled “clear”. On the right side are four buttons, and on top are two shoulder buttons on each side. The mini-USB port connects to the top center.

The tiny gamepad works surprisingly well. On my HP Mini 110, running Windows 7, it worked without driver installation. I simply plugged it in, waited for Windows 7 to identify it, and it was ready for action.

On my netbook, I loaded Stella, the Atari 2600 emulator, and AppleWin, an Apple II emulator. Stella automatically found and used the Pandora Pro. In AppleWin, I had to simply tell it to use the gamepad for the emulated joystick and it worked without a problem. I played Adventure and Berzerk on Stella, it was much more fun with a controller than the keyboard. I tested the Pandora Pro with Broderbund’s Airheart on AppleWin, and gameplay was awesome. The only minor issue I had was if I held the controller a certain way, it wanted to fold up again, but I think that problem was because I wasn’t used to holding it.

There’s not much more to say, this gamepad works very well, not much to complain about besides the build quality of the body. If you’re interested in one, pick one up at Amazon by following this link.

ThinkGeek Joystick-IT for iPad looks pretty good!

If you have and iPad or iPhone, the lack of real tactile controls makes gaming often difficult. My thumbs tend to slide around all over the screen, never quite landing in the right spot. If any one has tried playing any of the Capcom, Sega, or other console arcade game ports to the iPhone or iPad, you probably have run into this. For example, my foray into Megaman on the iPhone left me at game over within 10 seconds of game play… Even sick with the black plague on my deathbed I wouldn’t do this bad on my SNES! The touch interface, at least for me, just doesn’t hack it… But once again, intrepid third party developers come to the rescue! ThinkGeek’s selling these nice looking aluminum joysticks that stick onto the iPad screen… Hop over to their site for more details. I might need to go buy me some!