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Impulse Controller on Android Review

It started on Christmas morning.  As I joyfully shuffled through the various boxes in fancy gift wrap, I came across one with a width smaller than a 3DS game box, and about as thick at two neatly stacked CD cases.  Wasting no time, I furiously tore at the packaging, and wondered what hidden goodie was just out of my sight.  Then, there it was! The Impulse controller pocket remote & keyfinder.

The Impulse next to my car key fob.  
It's tough to really describe just how small this device is.  Sure, I can give you the Dimensions, (2.7" long x 1.3" wide x 0.6" high) but actually using the diminutive device actually doesn't feel as cramped as you'd think.  As long as you keep your expectations realistic, (it's not going to be as comfortable as a PS4 or XB1 controller) then you're in for a treat.  The controller is small, but manages to keep a tactile feel to the buttons.  Each of the five front facing buttons in addition to the Dpad has a nice "clicky" feel to it with no "mush" to be found anywhere.  The two "U" and "N" buttons on the back aren't quite as nice, but they still feel pretty good regardless.

For such a small device, the Impulse has a huge list of device compatibility supporting Android, iOS, Windows, OSX, and even Apple TV.  The controller can also be used in various orientations for left or right handed users, and even as a media remote, or presentation device.  If that's not enough, there is also a built in speaker than can be used as a keyfinder.

The Impulse also comes with a hard plastic sleeve which at first seems absolutely ordinary.  Don't be fooled by its simplicity as it has a cut out made to keep your smartphone propped up at an angle that will let you play games or watch movies.  If your phone fits, then it's a nice touch, and a great idea that will only help you enjoy your device more.  The bad part is that the angle isn't adjustable, but should suffice in most use case scenarios.

Pairing the Impulse controller via bluetooth is a breeze, and if you have ever paired bluetooth devices in the past, you should have no issues.  I paired the controller in Android gamepad mode to my One Plus One, and a few seconds later, was on my way to test out games.

Impulse tutorial videos can be found here.

Impulse specs can be found here.

My first experiment was with the Android version of Soul Calibur, which is one of my favorite beat em up's of all time.  Namco wisely included gamepad support, so I loaded up the game, and it worked perfectly with the impulse controller!  Well, not absolutely perfectly to be honest.  One glaring weakness is that the controller doesn't have enough buttons.  This won't be a problem for 99% of games out there, but for fighting games and emulators, one more button would have worked wonders.  As is, there is enough room on this device to fit in 3 additional buttons.  The controller could easily fit another triangle button opposite of the one already there, and two shoulder buttons.  Getting back to Soul Calibur, the only glaring omission was the missing a button for "Start" since the game does not allow you to remap keys as of the time of this post.  You can however, press the "back" key on your chosen gaming device to speed through intermissions, or press the triangle button to disconnect the controller and gain touch functionality back.  Other than that, the game plays BEAUTIFULLY with the Impulse, and is incredibly fun.  Having tactile and precise control made playing with my favorite characters Nightmare and Astaroth a dream.  It was almost like having a Dreamcast in my pocket.

Speaking of Dreamcast.  If you love emulators on your phone, then this is the perfect device for you to take on the go.  Since almost every emulator lets you map buttons, the Impulse can play your ROMS library with ease as long as your phone can keep up.  On both my Nexus 5 and One Plus, that meant everything from Atari 2600 to Dreamcast played well.  Even some PSP games played incredibly well as long as I left the "Start" and "Select" keys mapped to the screen while everything else was mapped to physical controls.  Depending on the emulator, you may have to switch your mode from Android Gamepad to Android keypad (universal OS) mode to get your controls to work, but luckily, switching modes on the fly is quick and easy.  Retroarch is one such emulator that needs the latter secondary mode.

Games that I've tested that worked: Crazy Taxi, Air Attack HD, Canabalt, Metal Slug 3, NBA Jam, R-Type, Radiant, Rayman Fiesta Run, Final Fantasy 3 & 5, Soul Calibur, Space Ace, Dragon's Lair, The Cave, Riptide GP2, and Muffin Knight.  Remember that just because a game does not work in one mode, it does not mean that it doesn't work.  Sometimes switching modes will allow you to play.  Luckily, with most recent Android games, physical controls will just work.  If you have two Impulse controllers, and the game or emulator supports it, then yes, you can play head to head or co-op.  I hope to be able to test this functionality soon.

I've also played Max Payne and ShadowGun, but I would not recommend these types of third person action games due to poor experience.  The buttons work great for these games, but you need to touch the screen to look around since you do not have analog sticks.

Long gaming sessions should not be a problem, as the built in (non removable) battery can last 9 hours or more.  Charging the Impulse battery to full status takes up to three hours.  With just under a week of fairly heavy use, I've only had to charge it once which is great for such a small, wireless device.  Charging takes place via a standard micro usb cable.  You also get a clip that lets you attach the controller to your keychain.  Black Powder Media got a lot of things right with this device.

So, you must be asking, what did they get wrong?

As mentioned earlier in the review, there may not be enough buttons depending on the game, you will not get analog controls, and the plastic body of the controller does feel cheap.  Mine has a little creak to it on the bottom right of the body, where the clip attaches.   Once again, this does not affect the tactile feel of the buttons, which is the true test for any controller.

Media mode works as expected.  Once activated, you flip the controller to it's side, and the Dpad has a "+" and "-" for the volume controls.  The back "U" and "N" buttons also control volume.  Depending on what app you're using,  the four buttons will have different functionality.  I tested with Google Play Music, VLC, MX Videoplayer, Netflix, and a few apps, and got various levels of functionality.  Volume controls always worked perfectly though. Your mileage will vary depending on the media app used.

There is also a selfie snap function, but I have not tested due to already having that functionality on my Moto 360 android wear device. Review for that device is here.  The keyfinder functionality may also require the Find my Impulse app depending on your device, and the Impulse is pretty loud when that functionality is active.  You should have no problems finding your keys if they are nearby.  Remember that in order to use this option, your controller must be off.

Overall, this is a great device for on the go gaming.  If your expectations are realistic, then you will have a blast with this product.  Tight controls, compatibility among the major operating systems, support for multiple players, easy connect and disconnect when you need your software keyboard, and media controls make this a great product to own for any gamer or media enthusiast.

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