Recently I have been away from home, with only work, an iPhone and a MacBook Pro to entertain me. While searching for a way to play a few multiplayer games I hit a snag – a distinct lack of controllers. While looking for a solution I came across Joypad for iPhone, and the now slightly outdated Joypad Legacy app.
Using a Mac or Windows PC and a couple of iPhones, it’s surprisingly easy to turn your handheld iOS device into a touchscreen gamepad. A lack of physical feedback means this isn’t suitable for “serious” gaming (whatever that means) but for emulators and brainless arcade games it does the job quite nicely.
The software means you can turn any Windows or Mac OS X laptop into a portable emulator or games console wherever you are. And it’s now free!
A Very Simple Setup
The setup for this rather awesome freebie couldn’t be simpler. Head on over to the Joypad Legacy website and download Joypad Connect for Mac or PC. While it’s downloading (and installing) you should grab the Joypad Legacy iPhone app from the App Store. The software is surprisingly light, and shouldn’t take long to download or install on either device.
Once you’ve got Joypad Connect and Joypad Legacy down and ready to go, launch the host software on your Mac or PC. The top list denotes preset configurations that gel seamlessly with the default emulator setups, the bottom is a list of devices that you’re able to use as a gamepad. With the software running on your computer, launch the app on your iPhone.
Provided both devices are connected to the same wireless network (more on this later) then you should be able to click on your device in Joypad Connect (if it hasn’t already connected) to connect and use it with your PC as a gamepad. That’s pretty much all there is to it – you’re now ready to use your iPhone with an emulator or by adding your own custom configuration to use with your favourite Mac App Store, Steam or third-party games.
The software maps keyboard buttons, so the iPhone app is really just an “extra” keyboard albeit with a limited selection of buttons. By tapping the joypad icon in the bottom-left corner of the Joypad Legacy iPhone app you can access different skins, from modern twists on old favourites to full-on retro versions of classic controllers for NES, SNES and Genesis (among others). It’s always a good idea to make sure your skin matches up with the configuration you’re using on your PC else you might be lacking the buttons required.
Performance & Wi-Fi
I was incredibly surprised at how well the controller functions, and was pulling off red-fireballs and shoryukens in Street Fighter Alpha 2 in no time. You’ve got to train your fingers not to wander across the screen, though if you were really serious about using this as a proper controller a small sticker (transparent) or cut-down-to-size screen protector would do the job nicely.
I tested performance in Snes9x mostly and with full-screen mode enabled it’s probably the most fun I’ve had on an emulator in years. I noticed in windowed mode the desktop would occasionally get confused and start switching between spaces (Mac OS X) but who wants to play in a small window anyway? On a rather busy wireless network with an ageing, struggling router the slight delay was noticeable at times but there’s a workaround for that.
While considering the validity of using my laptop as a truly mobile emulator and games console, I realised a lack of network connectivity might be a problem. It’s not an option to use Joypad Legacy over bluetooth, and so a Wi-Fi connection is mandatory. I then considered the possibility of an ad-hoc network, and using my Mac decided to give it a go. The results were incredibly good, with virtually no delay whatsoever, no dropped input and a rather easy setup.
Unfortunately I haven’t tested this on Windows, but there’s no reason it wouldn’t work just as well. On Mac OS X, this is how I did it:
- Click on the Wi-Fi indicator in the menubar at the top of the screen and click Create Network…
- I’d recommend using the default name, choose whether you want security or not (I chose to not use security).
- Create the network and then on your iPhone scan for Wi-Fi (Settings > Wireless).
- Before connecting, tap the blue arrow next to the ad-hoc network you have just created.
- Instead of DHCP choose Static and in the IP Address field input the IP address that appears on your Mac (you can find this under System Preferences > Network > Wi-Fi.
- Under the subnet mask (assuming your Mac created the subnet of 255.255.0.0, it probably did) enter 255.255.255.0.
- Tap Wi-Fi in the top left corner and connect to the network as you would normally.
- Launch Joypad Legacy on your iPhone and check you’re connected under Joypad Connect on your Mac.
You should only ever have to do this once provided you use the same name under the Create Network… wizard. Time to try out some games!
If your performance is adequate under a standard wireless network then you might not want to bother with this last bit, though bare in mind this ad-hoc approach turns your Mac (and Windows PC, provided you do it properly) into a truly mobile gaming machine wherever you are.
Let us know what you think of Joypad Legacy and Joypad Connect (as well as any tips for Windows users looking to use the ad-hoc approach) in the comments, below.