HORI Split Pad Pro Review

Released 2019
Platform Switch
By HORI (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Category Controller

Big hands? HORI has you covered – with a couple of caveats

I enjoy playing on my Switch. I tend to play docked with the Pro controller, but being able to continue playing when I travel is fantastic. True, the Vita had this first for a few games, but Sony dropped the ball in terms of supporting the undervalued console.

When I travel for work, it tends to be day trips or for the better part of a week. The Switch shines here. I can sit in the airport and continue playing, but unless I wanted to bring extra equipment, I am limited in what I could play comfortably. Astral Chain on Joy-Cons for example words, but it’s uncomfortable and hurts my hands.

The solution? Bring a stand and pair my Pro controller. But putting the Pro controller in my bag worries me. Nothing to protect the sticks, and I also worry about button presses trying to wake it and drain the battery.

There have been a few third party cases that try to emulate ‘full’ controller feel, and they have all missed for me. The extra ‘wings’ to fit in my hand were nice, but I was still playing with Joy-Cons and their stick/button placement. It wasn’t great.

It works well, but not the most easy to carry around setup

HORI has come out with new controllers to address almost all of these issues, and I am loving.

Introducing the HORI Switch Pad Pro (Daemon X Machina Edition) controllers

First things first – Daemon X Machina Edition? Yep. I haven’t seen any other edition, but all it means is a black and red colour scheme with a stylised ‘X’ on the X button. In the future, there may be different game tie ins, but today it just means slightly off norm colouring.

So what is the Switch Pad Pro? Take the general layout of the Switch Pro Controller, break it in half, and slide them into the Joy-Con rails on your Switch. That’s it. You now have a pro controller with a screen in the middle, and it’s incredible.

There is no other way to describe it – that’s what it feels like, with all the pros and cons that entails.

It's not just the angle, the Split Pad Pro has everything that little bit bigger

What cons can there be with a screen inside a pro controller?

Size. Straight up, this makes the Switch longer and deeper. Now for myself, this made playing the Switch in handheld mode more comfortable. I am 6’3″ tall, and not everyone has hands and arms the size of mine – individual experiences will vary.

The changes to the dimensions also make the Switch impossible to not only put in a pocket, but any case on the market I have seen. This puts you squarely back in the ‘take extra controllers with you’ camp, which I was hoping to escape.

It doesn't look much here, but the Joy-Cons have the switch flar and it all fits inside the Split Pad Pro setup

HORI makes Switch cases, I would love them to make a case I can store the Switch with the Pad Pro attached, Joy-Con’s underneath just in case, and maybe a pocket above for carts. This would make the Switch perfect for taking on day trips for me. Get on it, HORI!

What it does Switch Pad Pro does do well is when you are home and want to put the Switch down between sessions. Because the Switch itself is above the surface, picking up the Switch is much more comfortable. I have trouble sometimes picking my Switch up from flat, and that is no longer a problem.

OK, fine, so what’s the Switch Pad Pro like to play?

And here is the crux of the matter. The Switch Pad Pro is like a Pro Controller, but a little oversized and most importantly, not a Pro controller.

It’s tough to explain in words, but while the Switch Pad Pro is great to play on, you still know you aren’t playing on a Pro controller – probably my favourite controller in general.

Everything is oversized on the Switch Pad Pro. Not comically, at least not for my hands, but it’s noticeable. The sticks are just that little bit larger than the Pro, but the same ‘mushy’ feel in the movement. The seems to exaggerate the loose feel to the sticks, even though in gameplay they are quite responsive. It’s a learning curve, but not a steep one. I was playing Astral Chain comfortably within a couple of minutes, and that was after not playing for a couple of months.

Even with one hand for the shot, you can see the more 'normal' placement of the Dpad

Like any controller, the ultimate form is very personal. What do you want in your controller? If you like the clicky feel like the Xbox controllers, this will not feel great to you. I prefer the feel of the Dualshock, but this is softer again. 

If you are comfortable with the Joy-Cons, the Switch Pad Pro will probably be too big for you, but if like me they are too small this is a viable option.

But that’s not all of the caveats!

That’s right – even after all that, there are still things to watch out for. These are not Joy-Cons – and that had a more significant impact than I imagined.

You lose NFC (Amiibo) support and HD rumble. The rumble I was surprised at, the Amiibo support was a little annoying, but if required I can switch controllers mid-game. The big one you lose is motion control.

If you are like me, right now you are thinking to yourself “It’s attached – that’s fine.” and no, no it isn’t. Not for some games anyway. Realisation dawned on me when I tried to fire up Asphalt 9 Legends, thinking the wider grip would help my arms last longer.

I couldn’t play it at all. The vital ingredient that makes Asphalt so fun to play is missing in the Switch Pad Pro. Everything worked, right up to the point I needed to steer the car!

Not a game I would play without the Pro controller previously

Then I tried Pokemon Let’s Go. The game worked as expected, right up until the time I tried to move the Switch to aim. Ooops. Not the end of the world, but not a hurdle I expected to have to deal with.

That sounds like a lot of negatives with not much going for it!

Yes, it does. And it’s important to flag them, not because the Switch Pad Pro is a bad product, but it is a more niche product than I imagined.

There are a couple of features I haven’t touched on. The first is the Turbo button. I don’t know why, but it has one. I have yet to find a use for it. The second though is an on the fly assignment to buttons on the back of the controller. I haven’t used it yet, but I can see times where a simple button press (or even the dreaded L3/R3) combination needs to be used a lot, so you can hit this button instead of taking you thumb off the stick.

This doesn’t change the fact that for a lot of people, the Switch Pad Pro controller won’t be the best choice for all situations.

The assignable button without third party software is nice

So who should look at buying a Switch Pad Pro?

If you find the Joy-Cons uncomfortable and play in handheld mode a lot at home, these will probably do the trick. If you play docked a lot or don’t want to take the Pro controller with you when travelling because of space, this probably won’t be the best choice.

Playing on the plane, I considered playing The Witcher 3 but instead tried Astral Chain again in the more cramped quarters. Playing felt good, and I wasn’t locking elbows more than usual with the passenger next to me. I also didn’t have tired fingers 20 minutes in, a big plus.

What was a pain was taking a bag for my ‘flight’ stuff, the Switch case and the two Switch Pad Pro sides separatly. I really would have preferred a single case I could have lifted the unit out of, but I have already described that.

Travelling with the Switch Pad Pro is about as fiddley as moving with the Pro controller and a stand, but the price is about the same. If you travel a lot, it might be worthwhile, but if it’s occasional, I don’t think it’s worth the select purchase and custom travel storage you will need to create.

HORI Split Pad Pro

Final Thoughts

The Split Pad Pro controller is great for me, but I am not using it as much as I thought I would. Missing motion controls is a pain for some games, but I miss the rumble more than a couple of games.

Because I already have a Pro controller, I am more likely to drop the Switch in my dock and grab it than setup the Split Pad Pro at home. On the move, it’s almost perfect – except for the size and carrying it around safely.

Add a case to hold the Switch and this HORI, put Rumble back in, and everything else can be forgiven.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • Feels like you are playing with a pro controller with a screen in the middle
  • Using the controls feels better when playing action games, especially with my large hands
  • DPad is very responsive and works great

Cons

  • Could use more resistance in the sticks
  • An extra item to carry around with you, as actually two controllers
  • Unable to use a case with the controllers attached (May change in the future)
  • Rumble would have been nice

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Poke Ball Plus Review and Guide

Poke Ball Plus Feature
Poke Ball Plus Feature
Released 2018
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Category Augmented Reality Controller

Reviewing the little controller that is hiding so much more

So you would have seen in the last couple of Last Week’s Gaming that Pokemon Let’s Go has been my go-to game of choice lately. This is for a few reasons. It’s ‘simple’ – there are puzzles to solve of a sort, but nothing that has stumped me. Collecting Pokemon is still fun, but the ‘battle grind’ is gone. I don’t have to worry so much about random encounters – I can see Pokemon in the game world.

Now all of this is great, and I will review the game when done. I need to finish the game first, and I want to try teaming up and a few of the other new features before going there.

But one of the new features isn’t in Pokemon Let’s Go itself. New controllers aren’t exactly a new thing for Nintendo – just look at Super Smash Brothers as an example. But the Poke Ball Plus earns the plus by being more than ‘just’ a new controller.

Pokemon Lets Go Eevee is Happy 20181119
Eevee is happily sititng on my head as a walk around Professor Oak's office

The Poke Ball Plus itself

Being based off a Poke Ball, the Plus doesn’t have a lot of room to move in terms of design. The Poke Ball Plus is smaller than I expected, but not terribly so. On the ‘top’ of the ball is the B button, mostly hidden with a small circular indent in the red section. The centre of the Poke Ball holds the control stick, and pressing the stick (like L3 on PlayStation or L on XBox) becomes the A button. It’s straightforward and fairly intuitive once you have it in your hand.

At the back of the ball is a strap, and at the base of the strap is a small cover that comes off to reveal the USB-C charging port. I thought this cover would be more of a pain than it is, but it has proven fairly functional. You do need a little bit of fingernail or something to help pull it out, but as long as you use the recess on the left-hand side it’s a simple process.

Poke Ball Plus Front
If you look at the top of the ball, you can see the slight indent - this shows where the B button is

Also attached to the strap is a plastic ring section. This is supposed to fit around your finger as you play, as another measure to stop the Poke Ball Plus from flying if thrown. I also use it to hook the Poke Ball Plus to my jeans when I go for a walk. Becuase the ring is flexible, don’t forget to also secure the Poke Ball with the strap itself – while mine has survived a couple of drops relatively unscathed, why push your luck?

Poke Ball Plus Rear
USB-C for easy plugging (Yay!) and the cable just sits beside the Switch dock.

Playing Pokemon Let’s Go with the Poke Ball Plus

You would think this would be fairly straightforward – sync Poke Ball Plus with the Switch, play the game. And to a degree, it is this straightforward – just not like any other controller I have even synced.

Normally to sync a controller you slide the Joy Con into the Switch or plug in the controller via USB (Pro Controllers for example). Not so with the Poke Ball Plus. Start your Pokemon Let’s Go game, and you will be presented with a screen asking which controller to use. You can see Poke Ball Plus on the screen, but it’s not obvious how to select it.

All you need to do is push the A button on the Poke Ball Plus, and after a few seconds, you will see the controller change colour on the screen. Press A again, and you are most of the way there. The controls are now shown on the screen, and you can decide to back out and change controller if you want to.

It sounds simple, and it is simple. But when the instructions in the Poke Ball Plus state only ‘Follow On Screen Instructions’, and it’s so different from every other controller, a few people got caught out initially.

Poke Ball Plus Connect Controller
Normally to connect a controller you connect then play. Not the Poke Ball Plus!

Once that’s out of the way though, into the game you go. Playing is just like any other Pokemon game, and exploring the game world is a breeze. As I only really played Pokemon Yellow on my Game Boy, and then Pokemon Moon on my DS, the two button system made sense to me and off I went through the world!

The tutorial on how to catch a Pokemon came up on screen and was easy to follow. Really all you do is hit A to ready your ball in game, and then ‘throw’ the controller (action only – don’t send it flying!) in time with the capture circle. There aren’t curve balls or advanced techniques to worry about, so it was all pretty natural and fun. And the feeling when you feel the Poke Ball Plus vibrate and you hear the sound of the Pokemon come from the Ball? Talk about immersive!

Poke Ball Plus Throw Poke Ball
Capturing feels fun with the Poke Ball Plus. You get the on screen reminder to throw, but it just feels right.

The only downside is Pokemon Let’s Go takes advantage of the + and Y buttons in the game. Most screens will let you shake the Poke Ball for these extra controls, but not in combat. Shaking the Poke Ball Plus allows Partner moves (Special timed moves), so if you can’t remember what a move does you can’t bring up the info during the battle. It’s annoying, but not enough to stop me playing. I do pay more attention to the Pokemon while out of combat now to learn the moves a bit better, which is really all the system is asking of you.

Gaining a Mew

So one of the big bonuses of the Poke Ball Plus is that it comes with a Mew – a Pokemon that everyone swore you could get in earlier Pokemon, but I never worked it out.

Firstly you need to be far enough into the game to unlock the ‘Communicate’ panel. I don’t think this takes long – I had just started off on my quest from Professor Oak when I connected my Poke Ball Plus for the first time and everything came up on screen. You will also need to make sure you are able to connect to the internet, and that the Poke Ball Plus and Switch are charged. When you connect the Poke Ball Plus for the first time, if there is still a Mew available (remember, one per BALL not one per game you play on!), you will hear the ball make a shrill sound. This will let you know you are good to go.

Poke Ball Plus Communication Menu
Hitting B on the Poke Ball Plus brings up the main menu. You are looking for Communicate.

From here, as per the onscreen instructions, select Communicate, then select Mystery Gifts. You will see a bunch of options, select ‘Get with a Poke Ball Plus’. The Switch will connect to the net, and after a few seconds you will see the Mew emerge from your Poke Ball! The Pokedex screen will then appear, and the transfer is complete 🙂

Poke Ball Plus Mystery Gifts
As long as you heard Mew in the Poke Ball, it's all automatic from here

From what I understand, the Poke Ball Plus is the only way to catch a Mew in the game, making the Poke Ball Plus a must buy for the true completionists. If that’s all you are after though, it’s up to you how much you would pay for owning a Mew. Because I am not far enough into Pokemon Let’s Go to experiment transferring Pokemon Go characters I don’t know if this would work assuming you have a Mew in Pokemon Go.

I think the Poke Ball Plus would be pricey for just a Mew, and that is where some bad feedback was thrown Nintendo’s way pre-launch, but time will tell if this is how it will all play out.

Taking your Pokemon for a Stroll

This is the feature that has grabbed my attention the most. I thought the idea sounded cute – take your Pokemon with you kind of like an old-school Tamagotchi, and ‘play’ with it now and then. But it’s more.

As you walk around, the Poke Ball Plus has a kind of inbuilt pedometer to keep track of your steps, and it counts how many times you play with your Pokemon. If your Pokemon is bored and calls out, all you have to do is hit the A button to play with it, and you are rewarded with a rainbow set of lights to show it worked.

Poke Ball Plus Stroll Results
This was Monday's effort. I scored 10,000 experience from doing this!

For someone like myself that usually gets to play in very short bursts, this was an amazing ability. All I need to do to help boost a new Pokemon or work on my better ones is essentially wear a new key ring. This is probably what I would call the most pay to win feature of the game, but man is it helping me so far.

As I mentioned in Last Week’s Gaming, I got a very base level Magikarp and walked around with the ball for a couple of days.

Nothing sustained or over the top, I think a shopping trip was the most steps in a single trip. But Friday night when I bought back my Pokemon from my Stroll, Magikarp evolved into Gyarados.

No grinding battles, no switching from the first Pokemon out to maximise XP, just keep the Poke Ball Plus on me, and my Pokemon has evolved.

Pokemon Lets Go 20181210
$500 Pokemon Dollars for a Magikarp, a couple of days walking around with the Poke Ball Plus and bam - instant Gyarados!

And what is the benefit of all this? In game XP. You don’t even have to be playing Let’s Go to strengthen your Pokemon – just walking around like you do every day. The more you move, the more you will be rewarded obviously, but especially early in the game any experience boost is a major advantage.

The process is fairly simple as well. On your Save screen, choose ‘Take your Pokemon for a Stroll’. This will start a screen asking you to connect your Poke Ball Plus – even if it was already connected, you have to do this again. Once synced, hit the A button and you will be given the choice of walking your Partner Pokemon (Eevee or Pikachu) or opening your Pokemon Box. Select the Pokemon you want to take for a Stroll, and after a bit of data transfer all is set!

Poke Ball Plus Prep for Stroll
It's hard to miss the Stroll choice as you will be saving Pokemon Let's Go often

Now you can only take one Pokemon for a stroll at a time – but I suspect that is per Poke Ball (as you have to connect the Poke Ball). Now I don’t think it would be worth buying multiple Poke Ball Plus to stroll your whole team, but I believe this may be possible. I will try this over the Holidays once Rabbit has gotten into playing, as I don’t want to do anything that may cost her a Mew.

To bring your Pokemon back, just do the same thing – the Switch detects that there is a Pokemon in your ball, and you get to bring it back. Here you will see the results of your Stroll and all that Experience – plus rewards like Candy for taking your Pokemon out! While not essential to the game, all of this is saving me so much time and giving me bonuses, I am surprised how much I have gotten into the Strolls.

Poke Ball Plus Return from Stroll
Returning is a little unintuitive, but that can be said for a few Poke Ball Plus options

Playing with Pokemon Go

Here is where things get a little more complicated, but not by too much. There are a couple of things to remember though. First, Pokemon Go must be running in the background on your phone. This will probably cause the most problems, as some phones will cut background apps silently. Secondly, you have to pair the Poke Ball Plus with your phone. While this seems obvious, you will also have to unpair your Poke Ball Plus from your phone if you want to play on your Switch. I would have preferred the disconnection to be automatic when joining back up with the Switch, but oh well.

To connect your Poke Ball Plus with Pokemon Go, first select the Poke Ball icon in Go, then select Settings from the top right menu. Scroll down until you see Poke Ball Plus, then select it. At the bottom of the screen, you will see Available Devices – it should be blank. Hit the B button to make Poke Ball Plus appear as an option.

But wait – it’s not over! From here, on the Pokemon Go screen, you will be able to see a dark Poke Ball symbol in the top right. Tap your A button on the Poke Ball Plus, then tap this icon. All going well, this will then pair with your Poke Ball Plus. I say all going well, because I haven’t gotten it to work yet! I haven’t gone too far into troubleshooting though, as until I find Go Park in Let’s Go I don’t really want to sync the two.

Poke Ball Plus Pokemon Go
The first part is easy, assuming you know to look at the bottom of the settings

Once it is all synced, as long as the game is running in the background and you have taken a Pokemon for a stroll, any Poke Stop you travel near will be automatically spun. If you see a green ring on your Poke Ball Plus, this means there are Pokemon near for you to catch. Hit B to throw a ball. If you are successful, you will see rainbow lights on your Pokeball. Well done! If your Poke Ball Plus starts to glow red, this means you don’t have space for any more Pokemon, and you will need to have a look at your phone to clear space or buy more space.

As I said, I haven’t been able to do this yet, so screenshots and images are a bit limited unfortunately, but hopefully soon I will be able to show how this works in more detail.

Some more undocumented tricks – Sound and Battery Levels

So a couple of days in I thought I broke my Poke Ball Plus. I could feel vibrations when I played with my Pokemon, but no sound. Turns out all I had managed to do was mute my Poke Ball Plus! If you hold the A and B buttons together for a second and then release, you will feel one vibration. This is letting you know the Poke Ball is now muted. Do it again, you will feel two vibrations and sound is restored.

Preferred playing mode – Handheld, Joy Con, or Poke Ball Plus?

This is a little tricky. I enjoy handheld mode for the most part, especially being able to use the touchscreen to play with my Eevee. But catching Pokemon is a lot fiddlier and you have to twist around more, which motions control improve easily.

What surprised me though is that the motion controls on the Poke Ball Plus are more sensitive than the Joy Con. Lack of buttons aside (more on that in a bit), the smaller Poke Ball Plus does seem to be the better controller of the two for Pokemon. Moving your character and button selecting is better with the Joycon, but picking up on the throwing of a Poke Ball or the finer control of feeding your Pokemon definitely feels better to me on the Poke Ball Plus.

My main gripe with the Poke Ball Plus, especially when docked, is the inability to put the Switch to sleep from the Poke Ball. You either have to have a Joy Con beside you to be able to hit the Home button or get up to hit the button on the docked Switch.

To check the battery level, the easiest way is when the Poke Ball Plus is off. Press and hold the A and B buttons for about 5-6 seconds, and you will feel a vibration and the ring will glow.

  • Green means your charge is good (>2/3)
  • Yellow means it’s OK (<2/3)
  • Red means low (<1/3)

Once you know the reading, just click A again to shut the Poke Ball Plus back down.  Simple when you know, but some instructions in the box would help!

Poke Ball Plus Battery Level Check
If the light is green, the trap is clean! Wait, wrong franchise...

You can check the Poke Ball plus on the Controllers screen in the Switch system menu, but the amount of mucking about makes this a bit of a pain in my opinion. You have to start Pokemon Let’s Go, go to the Home menu, select Controllers, and then you will see an oval-shaped controller – this is actually the Poke Ball Plus.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Poke Ball Plus

Final Thoughts

Cash grab?  If all you want is a Mew, yes.  Pay to win?  This is a little harder to answer.  Some of the features such as Auto Poke Stop spins in Pokemon Go and the Stroll in Pokemon Let’s Go definitely make your life easier.

I am happy I got mine, and if you were thinking of getting Pokemon Let’s Go I would recommend the bundle deal of game and Poke Ball Plus just for the immersion of playing on the couch.  That feeling and sound when you catch a Pokemon, gimmicky as it is, is undeniably satisfying to me still.

Bottom line though, the Poke Ball Plus is a $50-70 investment, which to be honest is another game.  If you have any doubts about the Poke Ball Plus, this is where you should spend your dollars.

Overall
7/10
7/10

Pros

  •  Finer motion controls than the Joy Con
  •  Comes with Mew
  •  Allows you to grow Pokemon as you walk around – great for ‘casuals’
  •  Allows you to play Pokemon Go without using your phone

Cons

  •  It’s AUD$70
  •  Advantages have a slight feel of pay to win, especially for ‘dedicated’ players
  •  No real manual on use outside of Let’s Go