The GameTab-One by Bigben is an exciting new concept, unfortunately held back right now by some hardware limitaton as well as a lack of suitable content. Read on as our review expands on why this is still a very interesting development to follow.
The concept behind the GameTab-One is great, because Bigben is aiming to alleviate one of the biggest challenges that mobile gaming deals with. Gaming on a tablet has never really taken off beyond the casual domain, and the lack of ‘traditional’ controls is a large factor in shaping and maintaining that scenario. As it stands, most tablet (and mobile) games use simple touch screen controls that don’t allow for the multi-button layouts that your average playstation, xbox or even handheld console offers. This is most often worked around by providing simple and intuitive controls that are perfectly suited to the device’s limitations as well as strengths – this is part of the brilliance behind the Angry Birds concept.
There is another category of mobile/tablet games, and those attempt to ‘solve’ the control problem by drawing traditional controls on screen and allowing you to use a simulated d-pad and action buttons that way. It’s a novel idea – but held back by the fact that it’s always less responsive and more frustrating than ‘the real thing’. Enter the GameTab-One. Bigben’s gaming tablet merges both worlds together by taking an Android-powered tablet with all the basic features that you would expect, and latching it onto a custom made frame that is home to all the controller features that tablets lack: two thumbsticks, a dpad, action buttons and even four shoulder buttons. The GameTab-One essentially turns its tablet into a giant Playstation Vita – but with the entire Google Play library as your playground.
You don’t have to dive into the Google Play library right away, as the GameTab-One comes pre-installed with four games already – Asphalt 8: Airborne being the most impressive title and the one best suited to the controls that are available. Some of the other games are actually better off with regular touch screen controls, and this is an important thing to notice about the GameTab-One. Its functions only really come into play for games that use the type of ‘overlay’ controls that we mentioned earlier – a game where you’re swiping away at the middle of the screen is way less suitable.
For those games that offer overlay controls, configuring them to work with the GameTab-One is extremely easy and intuitive. You press the controller button on your tablet and after that it’s a simple question of “drag and drop” – you see visual representations of your GameTab-One buttons, and dropping them on the in-game version of that button maps is enough to do the trick. It works extremely well and our frustrations with some of these games vanished instantly – well done, Bigben. Games that have their roots in more traditional gameplay formats clearly benefit from these controls, sometimes even to the point of games becoming a little too easy due to controls that were programmed to be a little more forgiving towards touch screen users.
The build quality for the GameTab-One is solid, but not spectacular and definitely not up to the level of a Playstation Vita. This is especially true for the (shoulder) buttons, which feel a little cheap in terms of build quality. This is shame, although it’s understandable when you look at this being the first product of its generation which is also up against stiff competition from both the tablet and handheld world. Improving the build quality means raising the price, but hopefully the development process will eventually lead to improvements in this area without sacrificing the price level.
As things are, The GameTab-One is a great concept that improves on the tablet gaming experience – especially in games designed to mimic traditional handheld games. The experience isn’t quite the same with games that don’t use a traditional control scheme, and unfortunately the controls aren’t up to what you might be familiar with as a console/handheld gamer. Still, both issues could be be alleviated if more suitable games are released and if Bigben decides to release a follow-up. The GameTab-One’s name certainly suggests that this might be the case, and it’s showing enough promise to make us interested in seeing what the future might bring. If you’re ready to explore a fusion of handheld gaming with the Android gaming library, you would do well to check out the GameTab-One.