NVIDIA SHIELD ReviewClayMeow -
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NVIDIA SHIELD Android Gaming & Gamepad Mapper:
The SHIELD comes pre-loaded with two Android games: Sonic 4 Episode II THD and Expendable: Rearmed. Both games are optimized for the SHIELD and support the gamepad controls right from the start. Sonic 4 Episode II THD is classic 2D Sonic, with the THD version being optimized for Tegra 3 and Tegra 4. When I first played the game awhile back on my iPhone, I was rather impressed that the touch controls worked fairly well. Nevertheless, playing with an actual gamepad is more responsive and obviously how Sonic is meant to be played.
Expendable: Rearmed is a twin-stick shooter. If you're not familiar with that term, it refers to a game where you move with one analog stick (typically the left stick) and aim and/or shoot with the other analog stick (typically the right stick). With the SHIELD's dual analog sticks, it's no wonder why NVIDIA decided to include the game. While it seemed a bit easy, controls were responsive and there are a lot of explosions to show off the NVIDIA's graphical prowess. And graphical prowess it certainly has, sporting the extremely powerful Tegra 4 processor.
When you inevitably want more games to play, you have several options. One option is to tap the NVIDIA button once while on the home screen to launch TegraZone. TegraZone has three sections: SHIELD Games, SHIELD Store, and PC Games. SHIELD Games is for already installed games, while SHIELD Store lists all the currently uninstalled Android games that have official SHIELD support. There's almost 100 games from various genres, both free and paid. While some games may use touch controls in the menus, all the games feature full gamepad controls in-game. I did not test all the games, but the ones I did play were perfect. One game in particular, Reaper, even had control screens specifically for the SHIELD!
If a game you want isn't in the SHIELD Store, don't fret – you also have access to the full Google Play Store. Whether a game not in the SHIELD Store has gamepad support or not is up in the air, but that is where the Gamepad Mapper comes into play. Gamepad Mapper allows you to map touch controls and gestures to the gamepad buttons and analog sticks. When in (almost) any game, simply hold down the Start button and the Gamepad Mapper overlay pops up. You're then presented with a toolbar containing gizmos for the analog sticks and buttons, or you can use the gesture tool to draw a gesture on the screen. If you make a mistake, clicking on the Eraser icon deletes whatever you have selected. The right-most button with the green down arrow lets you download saved profiles or upload your own. I used the Gamepad Mapper in the endless runner Vector, which worked quite well. However, the reason I said almost any game is because the Gamepad Mapper overlay wouldn't even come up for Lep's World 3. An NVIDIA engineer filed a bug report after I brought it to his attention and he had the same result, so maybe it'll work by the time you get your hands on a SHIELD. Other games are simply a bit complicated to be perfectly translated. For example, I tried my best to map Injustice: Gods Among Us, but because the swipe attacks don't always appear in the same position on the screen, I was only moderately successful.
While the Google Play store may not have the sheer number of games the Apple App Store has, there is one aspect that provides a major boost – emulation. There are several emulators for a variety of platforms, both of the free and paid variety. I downloaded NESoid, a free NES emulator, and tested out two games I loved as a kid: Super Mario Bros. 3 and Ice Hockey (NOTE: it is illegal to download ROMs for games you do not own). I had to set up the controls in the emulator settings first, but after I did, both games worked great. It's too bad I'm not as good at Ice Hockey as I once was.