August 1, 2014

Green Throttle review: A new Android player has joined the game

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If there’s one trend that seems to be emerging in the Android landscape as we enter the second half of 2013 it’s that the platform is finding a new home in mobile gaming. Not with any particular titles or developers specifically, but in consoles and game controllers.

While NVIDIA’s Shield is coming in at the top end right now there are other players fighting for space in the entry-level console and controller space. Readers are likely to recognize names like OUYA and MOGA, but there are new players joining the game all of the time. One that we’ve recently had a chance to play with is Green Throttle.

Designed by former Guitar Hero and Palm staffers, Green Throttle is a game controller that turns your Android into a portable console. Like the MOGA and MOGA Pro, this setup works with the aid of an app (Arena) that can be freely downloaded from Google Play Store.

The Atlas controllers are sold individually for $39.95 each or in a pair for $79.95 (with a free HD TV connector). At a price below the MOGA brand we expected to see comparable build quality, game support, and flexibility.

Introduction

As you might expect, the Atlas controllers are connected to your Android phone or tablet via Bluetooth. If you pick up the HD TV connector (select devices) then you’ll end up plugging your Android into the HDMI port with an MHL cable. Pairing is as easy as anything else you’ll encounter and we encountered no hiccups.

Once you install the Arena app you’ll see that it’s a portal to download games or apps that are optimized to take advantage of the Green Throttle controller. We noticed that there was not a big library of titles to choose from and a glance through Google Play told us there was far less support than that of MOGA.

While we were a little concerned at the lack of games at first blush we did see a few familiar developers (Sega, Orangepixel) already supporting the controllers. Couple that with some very developer-friendly SDK’s and tools and we see a brighter future ahead.

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Hardware

The controller is designed like your standard XBOX 360 controller or the MOGA Pro. Indeed, you’ll find a directional pad, A,B,X,Y, two joysticks, two triggers and shoulder buttons, power, start, and back.  The controllers we tested felt solid in hand, never coming across as cheap or generic.

We played a few games with the Atlas controllers and didn’t notice any lags or deterioration in response times. For the best results you will want to make sure that all of your other apps and games are closed or not pulling down resources.

It’s worth noting that we really didn’t get into situations where we had to act fast and pull of any quick combos. The games available today border more on casual and pick-up-and-put-down than that immerse 3D shooter with a deep story line. With that that in mind, we feel pretty strongly that the Green Atlas is built to perform admirably.

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Game Support

The Arena game portal and Green Throttle website tell us that there are only a handful of titles to choose from as of today. You can sort by recent, featured, or “my games” to see what’s offered and what you might have. Should you wish to purchase or install a game from the website you’ll be directed to either Google Play Store or Amazon Appstore to complete the action. We like that this is offered in both spots for almost all games as the Kindle Fire (HD) would be a great portable device to take in the car or play on the couch.

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9 Lives: Casey & Sphynx

One game we had the pleasure of playing with the Green Throttle is 9 Lives: Casey & Sphynx.  Suffice it to say, screen shots didn’t do this game justice and the controllers made the overall experience incrementally better. Part puzzler, part action game, it’s fun and cartoon-y without feeling childish or immature. We were able to hop right in and get playing right away. If you’re looking for a good place to start with the Green Throttle controllers, this is one game we’d recommend.

Wrap Up

Considering the fact that we had not heard of the Green Throttle until recently and that it was priced at only $39.95 a piece, we were not sure just what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of the controller, the Arena app, and the responsiveness of games.

Sure, we’d like to see the library grow by leaps and bounds but, at half the price of an OUYA we are willing to forgive a little. We’re optimistic in how Green Throttle seems to be embracing developers and think they could definitely give the MOGA Pro a run for the money.  We’re not developers here but we cannot imagine it would take all that much for someone to convert their game or re-code it to work with Green Throttle optimization.

If you’re like us, you tend to only dabble in casual mobile games and leave the intense first person shooters and graphic intense stuff to the consoles. The Green Throttle is a perfect way to ease yourself into a more robust gaming experience on the way up the ladder to the likes of the NVIDIA Shield.

We like the price of the two-pack, especially since you get the HD TV connector for playing head-to-head with friends. We’re not sure if that’s a limited-time promotion or if it’s a long-term deal so act fast if you’re on the fence.

The bottom line here is that you need to put the Green Throttle on your radar. Maybe you won’t buy today, but we get the sense that you’ll come around in due time. That’s okay, we don’t mind saying, “we told you so” to our friends.

Where to Buy

You can purchase the Green Throttle controllers at the company’s website or through Amazon.com. We did a quick glance and found the pricing to be the same and Amazon also offered the free HD connector kit. Note that you’ll need and Android 4.0+ device and that not all of them are designed to handle the MHL support.