Why Most Console Games Ported to iOS Suck

I’d like to think that I’m a fairly nostalgic kind of person. I grew up in the 80s and experienced many great console games during that era. In the 90s, I was also fortunate enough to play through many great titles as well. Now that I primarily do my gaming on my iPhone 4, I’m rather saddened by the many console titles that are getting ported to iOS, for what seems to be just for the sake of porting.

Of course, I couldn’t resist buying many of these ports, only to be let down by the way many of these developers choose to handle the controls. Primarily virtual analog sticks to simulate a physical controller. Simulating a physical controller is clearly a poor way of doing things. The greatest games on iOS are games that were natively designed for touch input. You simply can’t just take any console game and port it, using virtual analog sticks willy nilly. This creates a terrible user experience, and just ruins what may have once been a great game when it launched on its original intended console platform.

While I can’t comment on every console port, I’ll share my experiences with several titles that have failed.

  • Resident Evil 4
  • Simon the Sorcerer
  • Duke Nukem 3D
  • Pac Man

Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 implements the popular virtual analog stick method which is horrible.

Simon the Sorcerer

Simon the Sorcerer eschews virtual analog sticks for a virtual mouse setup. No I’m not joking. You actually get a mouse cursor on screen, and the tap points are so tiny that it makes playing the game a horrible experience. They had a clear opportunity to do something cool, and instead they decided that they didn’t need to re-design any of the original controls or menus for iOS.

Duke Nukem

Same shit, different pile as Resident Evil. Terrible controls using virtual analog sticks.

Pac Man

Pac Man actually gives you several control options. You can use a virtual analog stick or even opt for touch controls (you just tap the screen and drag your finger around). The virtual analog control looks like an actual joystick you would find on the arcade version, which is actually better than the touch control. Putting your finger on screen obscures a fairly large portion of the UI, which means it’s rather annoying to deal with.

On a brighter note, I have encountered a few exceptions to the general lack of quality console ports to iOS. So far, Myst has been a pretty good translation. While Myst was originally made for PC and people played it with a mouse, it seems that these kinds of puzzle/adventure games work pretty well.

Overall, I’d love to see developers put some serious effort into proper redesigning controls and menu UI for their iOS counterparts. Please for the sake of nostalgic gamers everywhere, do yourself a favour and do it right the first time or just go home.