Earlier this year, my colleague Cameron Faulkner reviewed Razer Kishi, a smartly designed game controller for Android phones created in conjunction with Gamer. Now a version for iPhones is here, and it’s essentially the same story – the biggest difference is what it can do.
Kishi is like two Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons that are permanently connected to each other, easily collapsing into a portable package. The band between them is elastic, meaning you can drag them to the edges of your phone and fit a snug. The iOS version has a Lightning connector at one end and a port for portstrog charging. I tried it with the iPhone 11, but it also comes with adapters for smaller phones like the SE.
I really like this design. This solves many of the biggest pain points of mobile game controllers: they can be awkward to carry, attach, disassemble, and pair with your device. Kishi’s setup is intuitive, and the iOS version is MFI certified, so it’s immediately recognized as the gamepad of every game that uses standard controls.
This means that it works with a lot of games on the App Store. My go-to-time-vest is the mobile version NBA2K, For example, and I usually play it on automatic mode where you only occasionally connect directly to the action via some basic on-screen button. However, with the Kishi controller, it is no different to play the full version on a switch.
I also tried out Kishi with the new mobile version Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Which suddenly becomes a more attractive proposition. This is a very good $ 2.99 version of a legitimate classic, but I would never like to play it with a touchscreen – though, with Kishi, this is arguably one of the best ways to play the game.
I will say here that I agree with what Cameron said about the Android version of Kishi: it doesn’t really feel like a premium controller. The analog sticks and triggers are decent, but the face buttons are a bit more muted than I like, and likewise, I’d prefer more tactile responsiveness than the D-pad. That said, the D-Pad switch is better than dealing with Joy-Con’s four-button FaceMail, and overall, Kishi does a fair bit of work to give the iPhone a full Xbox-style controller layout.
Unfortunately, the comparison of the Xbox controller is less relevant on iOS than on Android. Apple’s ban around game streaming services like Microsoft’s xCloud means that the iPhone version of Kishi misses out on a compelling use case. On Android, you can stream the Xbox Game Pass game to your phone and turn it into a handheld console using Kishi. Unless or until Apple changes its App Store policies, however, you will be mostly limited to games that run on the iPhone. (If you have a gaming PC, you can stream Steam games to your iPhone on your home network with Steam Link, which works well with Kishi.)
One thing Apple offers on Android is Apple Arcade, the company’s $ 4.99-per-month subscription service that gives you access to a curated selection of iOS, Mac and Apple TV games. They all support touchscreens and are mobile-exclusive to iOS, but many of them also work with controllers to run on Apple TV, and this is a big boon for Kishi.
Like games Sayonara Wild Heart, Ocean 2, And Shinsekai: In the Depths I still have better relationships with Kishi on the iPhone – I think this makes the service a more attractive proposition overall. When I put the PS4 and Xbox One on the same screen, I’m never going to play these games on my Apple TV, but if Kishi has them in my bag, I’ll have more reason to check them out.
If you are interested in playing controller-based video games on your iPhone, then you should consider Razor Kishi. It is selling for $ 99.99, $ 20 more than the Android version – which was already expensive for a mobile controller. But this is by far the best option I’ve seen for the iPhone as being a product that I could actually use regularly. The focus is on convenience and ease of use, and I think Razor mostly liked it.
The biggest knock against Kishi’s iPhone version is what Apple allows to do in the App Store – but on the flip side, the way it works with Apple Arcade is its biggest strength. such is life.
Photography by Sam Byford / The Verge