A new champion approaches, and it has no time for finicky touch-screen controls.
You may not know this, but mobile gaming is actually the platform with the largest player base. It's so large in fact that it's not even close to the second largest, it dwarfs console and PC combined. The thing is however, mobile gaming often gets tied to the stigma of being for the casual audience, and generally, PC and console gamers don't even regard mobile gaming as a platform, but it's getting good, very good. To the point today where mobile gaming is a fantastic substitute for a busy individual. The main problem with it revolves around the handling because quite frankly touch screen controls are not great, but Razer has a solution for that, in the hand-held, attachable control pad accessory, the Razer Kishi.
The Razer Kishi is a device that slots into your phone's charging port (in my case an iPhone 11 Pro), acting as a new method to control various games. This device will not overpower your phone, in fact, it does very little unless you are using a Kishi enabled game, as any other time, the device is essentially just a plastic protective shell. Likewise, the Kishi will not drain your phone's battery, as it seems to be very energy efficient, and only active during gameplay.
It has a simple design, with a mostly blacked-out colour palette, aside from the decals on the buttons. The device has two analogue sticks, a multifunctional D-Pad, two bumpers, and two triggers, plus many buttons. Essentially, it's an Xbox controller that can fit around your phone. The really unusual part however comes in how it does this, as the Kishi can fold in on itself.
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In its carried state, the Kishi is useless, but also a fraction of its size when expanded. Fitting the device is easy, you pull two tabs on the back of the Kishi, and pull the device apart until you hit the point when the Kishi has absolutely zero structural integrity. In this state, you can see the rubber backplate and sides, and how it easily fits around your phone. Connecting from here is simple, you plug the side with the charging jack in (for myself the side with the Lightning 3.5mm connector), and then proceed to stretch the other half around your phone, like a boa constrictor around its prey. The rubber connecting the two halves has flexibility here, so don't be concerned with damaging the Kishi.
Before we get to the performance side of the review, it's worth mentioning that the Kishi feels great to hold, and your phone always feels safe within its grasp. To ensure that even more so, the Kishi comes with an extra set of rubber side panels, which can be easily swapped out to suit the dimensions of your phone.
Playing with a Kishi is very easy to adapt to, as it's very similar to a regular controller. When you boot up a Kishi enabled game, there's no hassle, you can just crack on and play. Likewise, games will often remove their on-screen touch controls to accommodate the Kishi's physical controls. The Kishi can be removed during a game to resort back to touch-screen controls, or oppositely, be activated during a game to switch from touch-screen mechanics. The idea is you never have to touch the screen when playing a Kishi game, but that doesn't mean the rest of your phone's operating system is implemented that way.
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Over the course of reviewing the Kishi, I tested a plethora of games, both from the Apple Arcade line-up, but also from my Xbox, using Remote Play. I found that iOS titles felt better than Xbox games, simply due to them being played from my phone, and not streamed between devices. With that being said, whether I was playing iOS Cat Quest II or Sonic Racing, or even Destiny 2, or Doom Eternal on Xbox Remote Play - the Kishi exceeded my expectations, feeling great across whichever title I put it up against.
The problem is, it's really not all sunshine and rainbows with this device. In particular, for the iPhone and iOS, the number of adapted titles is relatively limited, to the point where every other game I seemed to test did not support its control scheme. Obviously, as the Kishi further ages, and more titles start supporting its systems, this issue will be resolved, but as of right now, I'm not certain the Kishi is the answer to elevating the experience of mobile gaming.
I do think this device has an incredibly bright future, and for the times I did use it, it performed exceptionally. For individuals who are looking for a better way to enjoy videogames for an hour every couple of days, the Kishi is a great piece of hardware for you. But, for someone who has easy access to a Nintendo Switch, a PC, or even a regular console, picking up a Kishi to play Candy Crush for a couple of minutes here and there just isn't plausible.
Boiling it down, my experience with the Razer Kishi shows its level of potential. This device is a fantastic piece of hardware with a great looking future, and for myself playing Sonic Racing has never been more enjoyable. However, the Razer Kishi is not designed for everyone. It isn't grossly expensive, sitting at £79.99, but unless you spend a considerable amount of time playing multiple different larger mobile titles, you will struggle to find a serious use for this system. Does that mean I intend to reform back to touch-screen controls? Absolutely not.
8 / 10
Feels great to hold and play with, the device connects to your phone with ease, the ability to fold in on itself is fantastic and great for storing.
Has a limited degree of uses for majority of people, the lack of supported games right now make it hard to get value out of.