With mobile gaming delivering near-console experiences, gamers need near-console controllers. Touch screens are not enough for those needing a competitive advantage, which has led to a rise in gaming controller accessories for smartphones.
Next up is Razer’s Kishi controller, and I’ve been exploring the compatibility and potential with a review unit supplied by Razer’s PR team.
This isn’t the first time Razer has tempted into gaming controllers. Last year saw the Razer Junglecat arrive, with each half of the controller sitting either side of the screen of your phone. Connected by bluetooth, your phone needed a custom case to provide the fittings. Even though Razer provided cases for a number of leading phones, the universality was not there.
You could join the controllers together for a standalone bluetooth controller, but those looking for an ‘all-in-one’ solution had to have the right phone. How do you solve the awkwardness of the Junglecat and reach out to Android games on a wider range of devices? The Razer Kishi.
Closed up, there are a lot more curves than the Junglecat, as well as the by now standard layout for a game controller no matter the platform. The curves make for a comfortable hit into the palm of each hand, although this controller will not work when closed up.
Opening it up, you see the two main changes. The first is that the two sides are connected through a spring mounted cable, with rubberised holders in each controller. This makes the Kishi much more universal as a controller. It can accommodate different sizes of smartphones with the stretch and the holders. Consumers who have more awkwardly shaped handsets can get in touch with Razer or replacement holders – which ironically includes the Razer Phone 2 – as these are not included in the retail packaging.
Connectivity is by a USB-C connector. This is mounted centrally in the right hand controller, a location that thanks to modern trends on Android smartphones should again help with compatibility.
In use the Kishi is stable in the hand, and while there is a tiny amount of flex between the phone and the controller, each side balances out the other. Everything feels well balanced. The analogue sticks are accurate and both the D-pad and the control buttons have a positive feedback with a good amount of travel. I think I would have preferred these to be a bit more definitive with microswitches, although that level of clik-click-click on a mobile device would disturb others on a train or plane.
The hardware is now sorted. Gaming compatibility? Some more work is needed.
Don’t get me wrong, the big hitters are all here, with the buttons pre-programmed for the correct functions. If your favourite is listed in Razer’s Gamepad app you are good to go (and that app is a free download so you can check compatibility beforehand).
Make no mistake, if you have a competitive game where you can use the Kishi it massively changes the gameplay for the better. The speed and accuracy you can gain in the likes of Fortnite will, for some, be worth the price alone. But it’s not all plain sailing. The software needs to sit between you and the game, and it looks remarkably like an ‘aid to gameplay’ to some services which could lead you to be kicked from the service for cheating. PUBG players are not going to be able to take advantage of the Kishi.
There are some bonus points for compatibility with Google Stadia, which for some Android gamers will be reason enough to pick up the controller.
While the hardware is much closer to being universal, the software compatibility is not as wide. It’s a simple test to see if your favorite game is supported. If it is, and you are looking for a robust and comfortable physical controller, then the Razer Kishi is recommended.
Disclaimer: Razer provided a Razer Kishi controller for review purposes…