Switch-like controller makes the Razer Phone 2 a compelling gaming device
With the Junglecat controller, the Razer Phone II is a cheaper Android gaming handset than the Asus ROG Phone 2, but it still costs more than a Nintendo Switch
Mobile gaming has become more compelling in recent years thanks to powerful smartphones. But there are still some comforts offered by dedicated consoles that are difficult to replicate.
That hasn't stopped Razer from giving it a shot with its Junglecat controller, which has turned out to be a decent alternative to a Nintendo Switch.
The Junglecat is a detachable Bluetooth controller with two halves that can attach to the sides of compatible cases, much like you would attach Nintendo’s Joy-Con controllers to a Switch. It includes cases for the Razer Phone 2, Samsung S10+ and the Huawei P30 Pro.
I gave the Junglecat a try on the Razer Phone 2. When attached to the sides, the Razer Phone looks a lot like a Switch. It’s just a bit shorter and longer.
More importantly, it turns the phone into a compelling gaming device, albeit an expensive one. The Junglecat lets you play Fortnite with almost no compromises. All the buttons work (even the L3 and R3 buttons, unlike on iOS).
In some cases, the Junglecat turns the Razer Phone into a better console than the Switch. Playing Fortnite feels better on the phone because the Switch’s limited specs produce worse graphics than what the Razer Phone can push out. And unlike the Switch, the phone will give you a mobile connection without Wi-Fi, allowing you to play battle royale games wherever you go.
The Junglecat also feels great in the hands. But it has one major imperfection compared to the Switch: The controller halves are noticeably shorter than the length of the phone. That means you see some of the phone bezel jutting out from the bottom on each side.
Fortunately, that’s not going you ruin your gaming experience.
As great as the controller feels, though, gamers might be disappointed to learn that the setup doesn’t automatically map buttons for big games like PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile. There’s some controversy about button mapping, but the Asus ROG Phone II includes an app that maps screen input to its own controller buttons. So for the people who consider this an important feature, there’s already another premium gaming phone on the market that they can turn to.
The Junglecat does have a third-party mapping tool called Octopus, but it doesn’t work with blockbuster games. It works with most games, though.
The debate around button mapping has to do with Tencent banning some third-party apps that do this to try to prevent cheating. But the ROG Phone II doesn’t seem to have had any issues so far.
But if you’re more of a retro gamer, you’ll have no problem with the Junglecat. It works great for playing old console games on emulators. There are plenty of mobile emulators for old consoles these days, whether you’re into Nintendo, Sega or even Neo Geo. Of course most game ROMs are copyrighted, so do your own research.
All things considered, I had a great time with the Razer Phone 2 and Junglecat setup. Just a few years ago, I would have dismissed the idea of dedicated gaming phones, but the Junglecat was able to deliver the gaming experience I crave on a mobile device. With this add-on, buying a Razer Phone 2 makes a bit more sense.
The one hitch here is the price. You can pick up the Razer Phone 2 and Junglecat together for less than US$500 these days, but the Nintendo Switch starts at US$300.
It’s not an Apples-to-Apples comparison, but Razer made a phone that it wants you to think of as a console. It does have a great 120Hz display and sonorous front-facing speakers. And the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 beats out the Nvidia Tegra X1–based processor in the Switch. On top of all that, there are many free-to-play games on mobile, including many of the biggest games out today.
But having a dedicated console also offers a unique experience. Nintendo has especially done well leveraging the popularity of its own game franchises like Super Mario, Legend of Zelda and Pokémon. You can play illegal copies of the originals on your Razer Phone, but it won’t have Pokémon Sword and Shield or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
After using the Junglecat for a day, I’m at least convinced that an Android handheld will become an essential part of my gamer lifestyle in the future. But the price of this specific combo makes it overkill for my needs.
And it’s not even the most expensive option. The Razer Phone 2 is a year old at this point. The newer ROG Phone II decked out with all its accessories costs a ridiculous US$2,000. And even with just the comparable Kunai GamePad from Asus, it comes in at US$1,050.
So for the people who have room for a premium gaming phone in their lives right now, the Razer Phone 2 and Junglecat combo at least offers a compelling alternative to the Asus ROG Phone II.