As any self-respecting gamer will tell you, physical controls always trump touchscreen interfaces when it comes to fast-paced, demanding titles. Seasoned thumb-bandits may also be aware that Google’s Android platform is a hotbed of retro emulation goodness, with apps available that turn your humble handset into everything from a NES to a Sega Mega Drive.
It’s now possible to get the most authentic gaming experience possible by linking a Sony PlayStation 3 controller with your Android device. The app that enables this astonishing combination is Sixaxis Controller, available for download from the Android Market for £1.01.
Before you purchase the app and dust off your PS3 pad in preparation for some old-school gaming action, take note: your phone has to be rooted in order for this to work. If you have no idea what rooting is, we’d advise you stop reading now.
It’s also worth stressing that Sixaxis Controller doesn’t work with every single Android phone — the developer has noted that some HTC and Samsung devices are incompatible, due to complexities in how they handle Bluetooth protocols.
Still with us? Blimey, you’re brave. Brew a cuppa, chum, and let’s get stuck in. Hit play on the video above or read on.
Run a compatibility check
The developer has kindly made a compatibility check tool available for free so you can be sure your device is up to the job before spending your cash on the full app. Download Sixaxis Compatibility Checker and run the test to ascertain if you’re eligible for some controller-pairing goodness.
Install the SixaxisPairTool on your computer
Once you’re over the first hurdle, you’ll need to download the SixaxisPairTool PC application from the developer’s website. This allows you to manually create a bond between your phone and the PS3 pad.
Connect the PS3 controller to your PC
Use the mini-USB cable you got when you purchased your PS3 console — it’s the thing you use to charge up the pad’s internal battery — to connect the control pad to your computer.
Open the SixaxisPairTool — it can be found in your computer’s Start menu, assuming you’re running Windows. It will probably install some drivers, but that’s nothing to worry about — the app’s just making sure your PC can communicate with the pad itself.
Manually pair your phone with the PS3 controller
The SixaxisPairTool will display the current Bluetooth address that is paired with the pad. Input your phone’s address — the one you made note of at the bottom of the screen in the compatibility checker a few steps back — into the blank box, and then click ‘update’. Unplug the mini-USB cable.
Configure the Sixaxis app
Open the Sixaxis app on your phone. It may prompt you for superuser permission. If you’re a seasoned rooter, you’ll be intimately familiar with this screen. Start a scan and press the power button on the PS3 pad. The four red LEDs at the top of the pad should blink, and then one should stay lit to indicate that the pad and your phone have successfully connected.
Select ‘change input method’ in the app and select ‘Sixaxis Controller’. This basically makes the pad your primary interface with the phone — it’s essentially acting like a Bluetooth keyboard.
Bind keys to controller buttons
Press the menu button in the Sixaxis Controller app and select ‘preferences’. You’ll be able to bind Android keyboard keys to buttons on the pad itself. Make a note of the bindings you create here, as you’ll need to know them when you set up the buttons in each individual emulator in the next step.
Bind buttons in your emulator
We tested the Sixaxis Controller with several emulators, including MD.emu, Snes9x EX and PCE.emu, but, in theory, it should work with any Android app that allows you to edit keyboard commands.
You’ll need to edit the bindings in the emulator’s options menu — in the example above, we’ve used MD.emu — to ensure each key does what it should. Consoles like the NES and Mega Drive only use around two or three buttons for most games, so it’s not too much of a headache.