Bluetooth gamepads for smartphones have been around for almost as long as smartphones themselves.
They’re a necessary tool in every serious mobile gamer’s arsenal.
Sure, the touchscreen is a great interface, and its arrival triggered a whole wave of game design innovations as developers broke free from the shackles of buttons.
But sometimes you need buttons. Like it or not, there are certain genres that just don’t work with touchscreen controls.
Hence Bluetooth controllers. But these have mostly failed to fix the problem, being too unwieldy and impractical to make sense in the world of mobile gaming, where maximum convenience and portability is the name of the game.
The Jacknife Gamer could well be the solution.
This ultra-slick device, created by Canadian product designer Duncan Mao, started life as a labor of love, manufactured by hand in a garage and sold at a local night market. The feedback was so enthusiastic that Duncan decided to go global in December 2022, selling the Jacknife Gamer on Amazon.
Here’s why we think it’s a winner.
Unlike the 8BitDo Zero, the only other Bluetooth controller compact enough to carry around with you alongside your smartphone, the Jacknife Gamer actually clips onto your device, augmenting your touchscreen device with a full array of buttons.
Despite being roughly the size of a box of Tic Tacs, the Jacknife Gamer extends to clamp around screens that are up to 86mm wide, effectively transforming them into portable consoles.
You can see it for yourself on the official YouTube channel.
The Jacknife Gamer fits an impressive number of inputs into its modest form factor, with four directional buttons, XYAB buttons, Start, Select, and Bumpers on each side.
These are all perfectly positioned, with the XYAB buttons arranged in a square rather than diamond formation to work with the way your hands naturally hold your phone while gaming. The Bumpers, meanwhile, are cleverly tucked away at the back, right where your ring fingers naturally rest.
It’s easy to use, too. You don’t even need to put the Jacknife Gamer into pairing mode to pair it with your phone.
Instead, the device enters a pairing state automatically when you power it up (by holding down the Start button for three seconds), so that all you have to do is select Jacknife Gamer in your phone’s Bluetooth menu. It connects over Bluetooth 5.0.
In terms of battery life, the Jacknife Gamer will outlast your smartphone many times over.
It boasts an impressive 60 hours of constant gaming, and it comes with a USB-C to mini USB cable so that you can charge it straight from your phone in the unlikely event that you find yourself running out of juice.
The Jacknife Gamer supports tens of thousands of games, but some genres – like racing games, platformers, 3D action games, and top-down RPGs – inevitably benefit more than others.
Duncan has compiled a handy list of the some of the games that work best with the Jacknife Gamer on his website.
This list includes some of the best games on mobile full-stop, such as Dead Cells, Stardew Valley, Table Top Racing, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, and Chrono Trigger.
Of course, those are all multi-platform games that you can already play on a device with buttons. The Jacknife Gamer simply lets you play them properly on your phone, without having to put up with all the fudges and compromises involved in converting them to touchscreen.
But there are other games on Duncan’s list, like the awesome Dark Souls-inspired action-RPG Pascal’s Wager, that only exist on mobile. The Jacknife Gamer may well give you your first chance to play these games in a new and better way.
To see it in action, head to the official Jacknife Gamer website and head to the shop.