PS5 has some portability, and some Backbone...
Let’s face it. The PSVITA follow-up PlayStation fanboys dream of may never materialise, and it’s eating at us. So while we let this harsh reality set in, I welcome you to what could very well be its successor in some regard, albeit a peripheral rather than a full-fledged handheld unit. Backbone One: PlayStation edition by Backbone is an amazing piece of kit, that turns Apple iPhone’s into a portable gaming powerhouse, whether its at home, on the go, or wherever you want. The basis of the hardware itself is that it connects directly to the lightning port on the phone itself via a connector placed within the controller, and with additional setup of the Backbone app, which you can install right off the App Store, it’s plug-and-play convenience is simply awesome. The great thing about the unit itself, is its label is purely aesthetic from a licensing front. You don’t have to use it exclusively for remote play.
Backbone One’s versatility is showcased with numerous options for gamers that prefer to take their experience anywhere. Not only does it feel comfortable in the palm, my entire reviewing experience of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R was almost exclusively on the Backbone One via remote play. The formation of the controller itself is akin to the Nintendo Switch’s Joy cons, but the Backbone gives off a distinct premium quality to it. By comparison between the two, the Backbone One definitely wins on comfort, and feel. Buttons press like a dream, and the analogue sticks are surprisingly great to use. The D-Pad does strip away PlayStation’s trademark individual quarters, but still looks great and matches the aesthetic presented on a PlayStation Dualsense. The model itself fits iPhone’s from the 6 upwards, and comes with an adapter for those carrying the an iPhone 13 or the new 14 to facilitate its rectangular ridges.
While mainly licensing a colour scheme and use of the sacred symbols (The ▲⏺🞭⏹), The rest of its build retains the Backbone One’s original button configuration and symbols for those familiar with the original product. Now in terms of gaming experience itself, your mileage may vary due in part of your home internet for starters. This pertains mainly to those who are seeking to use this solely for its remote play capabilities. As for my personal experience, I had no issues connecting my phone to my PS5 at home, while testing the unit in a park about five blocks away. I played through multiple rounds of Mortal Kombat 11, and about thirty minutes worth of The Last of Us Part I before I was satisfied. Then there was connecting to xCloud, and damn was this just insane. No console, only my phone, the Backbone One and my 5G connection and I was speeding through Mexico, playing through a few missions in Forza Horizon 5.
The bumpers and triggers at the top feel fantastic, and are obviously integral to your experience. Designed to give a respective demonstration to both tactile and trigger like qualities, they push the preface that Nintendo should be paying attention to this product for their own controllers, given that the Backbone is able to cater both shoulder button types without any issues. Of course, there is no adaptive triggers or haptic feedback, but vibration is simulated with quick buzzes. This can be turned off for those not wanting that feature. The Backbone app is well organised and acts like your phone’s gaming hub, recognising any titles you may have installed to your iPhone, or the xCloud and PS Remote Play app placed on its dashboard, respectively. The latest news from events such as Gamescom, Sony’s State of Play or an XBOX Showcase are all listed under What’s New, along with brand new games that may have just hit iOS.
The Backbone itself acts as a controller for Mac or PC users, without having to connect their iPhone to the peripheral. Just connect it via the lightning jack on the bottom right port and via USB on your PC. The issue of your phone going flat may be something you run into quickly, depending on your phone’s battery health, to which the aforementioned lightning port acts as a passthrough, meaning you can charge your phone while using the Backbone. There’s also a bottom left port for those looking to connect a pair of headphones via a 3.5mm jack. Certainly nifty for those who want to use their over-ear headphones, or a pair of non-apple earbuds while playing a title or just wanting to listen to some tunes. You can capture images or footage directly to you phone by pressing down on the Backbone’s capture button. Depending on how long you action the button, it will either take a quick snap or record video and save it directly to the app, ready for you to share anywhere.
While there are a few other neat little features added to the app such as party’s or chat, I’m unsure if these will be utilised by gamers as much as Discord would be. As a matter of fact, when you purchase a Backbone One, you get three months free of Discord Nitro, so I’m unsure what or why Backbone’s own chat services exist when they know themselves that gamer’s will immediately gravitate towards the premiere platform? Regardless, Backbone One: PlayStation Edition is the dream PSVITA follow-up that we’ll never get from PlayStation themselves, but it definitely delivers a fantastical handheld quality experience. I’m delighted by my usage and how much I love having it on me when I need a quick Mortal Kombat 11 or Forza fix. It’s the add-on I never knew I needed to enrich my gaming experience on the go, and am pleased to say that it’s well worth it if you are a persistent user of remote play or xCloud; this is unequivocally the ultimate way to experience those services.
Backbone One: PlayStation Edition
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