Razer Kishi (Review)

Since xCloud made the rounds in beta for Xbox users and moved to Game Pass Ultimate I’ve dabbled in it during breaks where a few games such as Minecraft Dungeons will work fine through touch screen controls but it’s not really the same as having a proper controller in your hand. In those cases where a game needed a controller I’ve used a mount device to sit the phone above the controller and though it does work well the weight of your phone does throw out the balance and how it feels in your hands. The final variety of controllers you see often are those that mount on the ends of the phone screen, Switch style, which in initial testing of the Razer Kishi, seems to be the best form factor for games on the go.

When closed up, the Kishi itself is quite small which makes it ideal for packing into a carry bag or pocket. When you finally want to use it a bracket on the back of it pops out which lets you stretch out the two sides of the controller, that are connected by a flat cable. To attach it you plug the the right side into your phone’s charging/data connector (for Android it’s USB C) and then hook the other side onto the opposite end of your phone. The tension from the cable will help keep it held together as does the mounting grooves on the insides of the controller. There’s a fair amount of give from the cable which should allow a number of phones to use it. I think I might have been pushing it with my Galaxy Note 10+ but it still fits and works well. If there’s one downside to the controller is that the way the non phone connected side attaches isn’t terribly strong and if you’re the kind of player who wrangles with their controller you may twist it off your device.

The great thing about using the controller is when loading into the Game Pass app all the buttons map to their Xbox equivalents with no configuration. I know this has been standard for a while now but it’s great seeing how both Android and iOS have taken to accepting a variety of game controllers. There is apparently a version of the Kishi where the buttons use the Xbox designs but you’re not missing out anything with this layout. The stick, face buttons and directional pad all work great but it did take me a while to get used to the bumpers and triggers – the size of the triggers are a lot shorter than an Xbox controller.

But the real question is though… Can it play games? I loaded up Forza Horizon 5 via Game Pass and I think for a game that can require some fast reflexes on windy roads you could give it a fair go playing it on the Kishi. I’ve also played a lot of Peggle 2 and Lumines Remastered in my hotel room and it’s been perfectly fine for quick games. One of the advantages of this controller over others is that it doesn’t rely on a Bluetooth connection as it’s plugged directly into the phone itself meaning the response times should be dramatically better which for a product like xCloud that already has elements of delay to it anything you can mitigate is a bonus. The downside of that direct connection though is that you are platform limited – you either get the iPhone version or Android version – so if you plan on using it across multiple devices a similar Bluetooth controller may be better, even if response times may be worse.

For games running locally on your device you’d expect it should be an easy win but funnily enough the first game I loaded in Call of Duty Mobile only accepted Bluetooth controllers which makes me think there may be some limitations in its support however Fortnite handled it perfectly well. Hopefully it’s just edge cases that won’t work and over time it will be less of an issue but it might be something to consider depending on what game you are using the controller for.

So far I’ve enjoyed using the Kishi. It’s not a huge drain on your phone battery and the charge passthrough helps mitigate it for longer sessions while the fact it just works with the Game Pass app out of the box is awesome. So if your main focus for a mobile game controller is cloud streaming, this is a very easy choice. However that issue of compatibility across other titles may make you consider other options and it is worth considering options based on what you want from it.

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