Cloud gaming on your tablet and phone
Sometimes technology just blows your mind. When I reviewed the OnLive Game System, I was impressed by the simple fact that this "cloud gaming" kit worked at all – let alone that it worked so well.
Then the company invited me along to see its new iPad app and my jaw landed with a thud on the ground as they fired up the PC game Batman: Arkham City on my favourite fondleslab.
Pick your title
For an encore OnLive whipped out an Amazon Kindle Fire and ran the game on that too.
That was just before Christmas, and Apple’s control-freak approval process means that the iPad app still hasn’t seen the light of day on the App Store – although there is an OnLive Viewer app that allows you to be a spectator and watch other people playing games in OnLive’s Arena.
Get playing as if you were on a PC
However, the full Android app is now available in the Android Market. And while the iOS app only runs on the iPad, the Android version will run on both smartphones and tablets so long as they're running Android 2.3 Gingerbread or later. You can see the list of compatible devices on the apps' Market page.
OnLive says that these mobile apps require an internet connection running at 2Mb/s or more in order to provide decent graphics quality and gameplay. I tested it on a 5Mb/s connection and could detect no significant lag or pauses.
Touchscreen gaming is aided by on-screen control 'overlays'
Few of the PC games in the OnLive library were designed for a touchscreen, but OnLive has been working with a number of games developers to provide some titles with a touchscreen ‘overlay’ that provides virtual gamepad controls similar to those found in many native Android and iOS games.
This system doesn’t work for all games, but the app’s browser interface tells you what control options are supported by each game before taking your money. Many games also have a trial mode that allows you to play for 30 minutes for free, so you can check out the game controls and see how your broadband copes before spending any money.
OnLive is also selling its own wireless controller for 40 quid. It provides a more suitable control system for action games.
The Android OnLive app runs on phones as well as tablets
OnLive told me that it hopes to give away copies of Lego Batman for free as a special introductory offer - subject to confirmation - and I have to say that the simple run-and-jump mechanics of Lego Batman worked better on an iPad than the more complex and precise combat sequences of Arkham City.
However, there’s always the game controller for that type of game and OnLive’s library of almost 200 titles includes plenty of strategy games, puzzlers and other casual games that don’t require the superhuman reflexes of a Batman, Catwoman or Assasin’s Creed.
Don't like the touchpad? Use a wireless controller
The full list of OnLive games is available at the OnLive website.
From a technical point of view, the OnLive app is a real achievement. However, Android and iOS games tend to be a lot cheaper than most PC games so it may not be easy to convince mobile gamers to sign up to OnLive’s monthly subscription plans or three-day rentals when they can just buy Angry Birds Olympic Edition for 69p.
Lego Batman on... Android
On the other hand, it’s a great way of trying out some A-list PC titles that wouldn’t normally be available on mobile devices, and the free trial mode means that you’ve got nothing to lose by downloading the app and checking out a few games first. ®
iGamer covers the latest in mobile gaming on Android and iOS, every other Wednesday. If you think there's a great game we really should cover, please let us know.