Gaming

Use Your Android Phone Like a Switch – Razer Junglecat Controller Review

Use Your Android Phone Like a Switch – Razer Junglecat Controller Review

We are plenty excited for the new Razer Kishi we saw at CES. However, it is time to double back to another Razer mobile product that we were reviewing while our 2019 Holiday Gift Guide was being posted. After dropping the Razer Raiju Mobile, Razer released another mobile gaming solution for Android and Windows devices. The new Razer Junglecat is a mobile controller that can be used as a traditional stand-alone wireless controller. However, if you have a Samsung Galaxy Note9, Galaxy S10+, Huawei P30 Pro, or the Razer Phone 2, you can split the controller in two and snap the halves onto each side of your phone, giving you a sort of Nintendo Switch playstyle with your device. If that is not intriguing enough, the Razer Junglecat’s controls can be mapped to touchscreen buttons without having to uproot your Android device’s OS settings.

Let’s dive in.

Out of the box, the Razer Junglecat cat comes with a controller grip and three phone cases that can attach to the controller. The custom-fit cases included depend on one of two purchase options that you can choose.

SKU RZ06-03090100-R3M1: Razer Phone 2, Samsung Galaxy S10+, Huawei P30 Pro

SKU RZ06-03090100-R3U1: Razer Phone 2, Samsung Galaxy S10+, Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Build and Feel

The controller itself features a left and right side, which attaches to either to the included grip or to one of the supported phone cases. Each Razer Junglecat controller piece pairs to your phone via Bluetooth, showing up as a single connected controller. The Razer Junglecat utilizes a Bluetooth Low Energy and low-latency connection with your phone, while touting a whopping 100-hour battery life on a single charge.

The Razer Junglecat features all of the standard controller buttons that you would expect to see in any current-generation gaming controller. Looking at both the left and right sides in unison, you have dual analog sticks, a D-Pad, four front-facing buttons, Select and Start buttons, and four shoulder buttons featuring two bumpers and two triggers.

The controller’s buttons, triggers and thumbsticks have a pleasant, snappy and tactile feel to them. I have garnered a sort of love-hate relationship with the sunken D-pad style that Razer has used in their past controller. This was especially the case with the D-Pad in the Razer Raiju Mobile. While the Razer Raiju Mobile’s D-Pad is fine for your run-of-the-mill 2D games, I struggled with input accuracy when it came to fighting game moves. Strangely enough, with the Razer Junglecat, that very same sunken D-pad felt easier to finagle this time around. The most noticeable difference in the Junglecat’s D-Pad is that it has less resistance to the press, feeling much lighter and springier than that of its mobile predecessor.

When using the Razer Junglecat with the controller grip, the controller has a comfortable and traditional grip to it. Even with it being a bit on the small side in terms of controller size, the buttons, D-pad, and analog sticks are arranged nicely. I am able to reach for any and all buttons easily, even during frantic gameplay. The arches behind the triggers help aid the overall grip of the controller, especially when playing first or third person shooters.

When the Razer Junglecat is affixed to the sides of a supported phone, the unit as whole is pretty sturdy as well. The controller sides snap securely into place, but are also easy enough to remove from your phone with reasonable effort. Anyone that has used a Nintendo Switch or PSP for a respectable amount of time should have no trouble at all with acquainting themselves with this controller layout. They will feel right at home.

Summing up the build at a high level, the Razer Junglecat is a surprisingly easy controller to handle and use, despite its size. Buttons, triggers, and even the D-pad is satisfying to click and press. The controller is very light and compact, making it easy to stow away and take along on trips. I even like how the included cases themselves can be used as proper Razer-promoting cases, giving you full access to your mobile device’s buttons and ports.

Each phone case is sleek with a minimal body and footprint. Just know that they are of a light plastic. So, I wouldn’t go around putting them through drop tests or rugged scenarios. However, at their base, they give your phone simple protection while being ready to attach quickly to the Junglecat whenever you want to start gaming.

Functionality and Performance

One of the main draws of the Razer Junglecat, outside of its Nintendo Switch-like nature, is its ability to map any of its tangible controls to onscreen functions in your mobile games. It does this by using the Octopus button-mapping software, which is nested within the Razer Gamepad app for Android.  The Razer Gamepad app acts as a hub for all of your installed games. You can have it either autodetect your installed games or add your games manually. Games that have native controller support work without a hitch with the Junglecat. Games that lack controller support will give you the option to play with the Octopus overlay.

I’ll start off immediately by saying that I love the Octopus overlay, as well as its implementation with the Razer Junglecat. Just know that you have to give it plenty of permissions to allow it to fully emulate your human finger taps throughout your phone’s OS. It appears to be the way that the overlay tricks your phone into thinking that a human is pressing the screen, as opposed to an app’s simulation of screens taps. If you are squeamish about app permissions and things of the like, I found the following frugal set of permissions allowed the overlay to work. ***Just know that this was only my experimentation and NOT the recommended settings.***

Using this half-cocked assortment of settings, the overlay complained about lack of permissions a couple of times, however it would then work exactly as intended every time I played a game with these stingy settings.

However, let us continue on with my experiences with the proper Octopus overlay permissions…

Mobile Gaming without Controller Support

Luckily, for the purposes of this review, my current mobile gaming addiction, King of Fighters Allstar, does not natively support controller usage. When I added it to my Razer Gamepad app’s library, I launched it with the option of using the overlay. Setup is simple. Load up a stage in the game of your choosing, finding a place where the on-screen controls are in full display. Then engage that strange hanging blue guy on the edge of your screen.

That is the Octopus overlay. From there on, you can create onscreen overlay buttons, make them as large or as small as you need them to be, and map them to individual physical buttons. At any point, you can jump in and out of the Octopus overlay to test your controls on the spot. This allowed controller refinements to be very easy and intuitive. You can even tweak the transparency of the controls you map on screen. You set whether you need the controls to sit on screen as a reminder of what you mapped, or simply make them 100% invisible if you don’t need to see them.

Once my controls were set, King of Fighters Allstar became astonishingly more comfortable to play. I opted to map the character movement control to the D-pad, as opposed to the analog stick. This allowed for a more traditional side-scrolling fighting game feel with the Junglecat. Thanks to this, I was able to use double-taps on the D-pad to trigger my character’s rolls. The onscreen control for this quite small, and double-tapping an on-screen analog stick did not feel nearly as natural as my new real-button setup.

Playing King of Fighters Allstar with the Junglecat felt like a dream, as PVP matches were now fully determined by my skill and not my potential fat-fingering of small on-screen buttons. The Razer Junglecat and Octopus overlay kills it in the fighting, side-scroller, or beat-em-up genre.

I personally like how smooth and easy it is to map the Junglecat’s analog sticks to onscreen ones. Being able to resize the overlay controls allows you to accurately fine-tune the Junglecat’s analog sticks to treat the sensitivity of onscreen motions in the manner you like.

Mobile Gaming with Controller Support

When the mobile games of your choosing support controller usage, the Junglecat’s controls simply fit the game like a glove thanks to its natural controller layout. For the controller-supported game test, I went with Street Fighter 4 Championship Edition for Android. As mentioned before, despite being of two physically removable pieces, the game automatically registered the Junglecat as one full controller. I was able to dive right into gameplay with little to no learning curve. The game let me use the D-pad for character movement, as it should, and I was off to the races. It was here and with PC gaming, which I’ll touch on later, where I continued to sing praises of the Razer Junglecat’s D-Pad.

In Street Fighter 4 Championship Edition for Android, my moves, special moves, and combos poured out with accuracy. Having used Street Fighter 4 Championship Edition for Android to vet many mobile controller D-Pads in 2019, I was not disappointed with the Razer Junglecat. Even in that Nintendo Switch / PSP format, gameplay was fluid, comfortable, and most of all enjoyable. My Dudley combo came out without a hitch.

(Yes, this is not from the Android SF4. But it is the same exact combo I was able to execute in the mobile version with the Junglecat. So, I’m reusing the gif from a previous review to at least illustrate the actions performed.)

PC Gaming with the Razer Junglecat

Street Fighter 4 Championship Edition for Android allowed me to test fast-paced gameplay with the Junglecat attached to my phone. On PC, I connected the Junglecat to the included controller grip and took it for a spin with my Microsoft Surface Pro 3. I booted up King of Fighters XIII for Steam to further vet the Junglecat’s natural level of comfort. That Bluetooth Low Energy and low-latency connection continued to shine, as gameplay with the Razer Junglecat felt as natural as it would with a wired fightpad, button placement aside of course. Gameplay was responsive and crisp, showing that the Razer Junglecat was more than ready for wireless PC gameplay. That 100-hour battery life helped to solidify confidence that the Junglecat was ready for the long hual.

Xbox Gaming with the Razer Junglecat!?

Yes, you read that subtitle correctly. The Project xCloud preview worked swimmingly with the Razer Junglecat. We snapped the Junglecat to the sides of our Samsung Galaxy Note9, booted up the Xbox Game Streaming app, and we were off to the races. Tekken 7 played solidly, despite the noticeable delay of the still-in-works Xbox game stream. This only further drove home how solid this controller is for fighting games. However, to feel out shooters, we had to give Gears of War 5 ago as well. After some sensitivity tweaks, without any need of button remapping whatsoever, moving and gun play in the third-person shooter felt natural.

Just like that, Gears of War 5 became playable from the comfort of my bed, thanks to the Junglecat’s all-in-one attachment setup.

Final Thoughts

The Razer Junglecat is a solid buy with an approachable price point of $99, more so if you use one of the supported mobile devices. The controller’s Android and Windows 10 compatibility coupled with that 100-hour life span makes it a nice traveling companion for any gamer on-the-go. All is not lost should you not have one of the devices that fits into the included phone cases. At the very least, the controller’s compact size and battery life alone allows it to compete with other controllers in the mobile market. The Octopus overlay expands the Junglecat’s usability to tablets, being especially handy in games with on-screen control placements that were originally designed for phones. Simply map your controls, prop up your tablet on a surface, then sit back and play comfortably.

My only wish for this product is that it does well enough to allow Razer to add more phone compatible case options. Having select Xbox games playable from a phone was an interesting and spoiling bonus. We got our hands on the Junglecat a little later than we would have liked. Yet I mention this only because I most likely would have named this my favorite “mobile controller of 2019” in our Holiday Gift Guide.

If you’re looking for a solid mobile and PC gaming controller, that works even on “unsupported” games, the Razer Junglecat is definitely one to look into first. If you happen to have one of the four supported phones mentioned above, then you may just want to start and stop your search with the Junglecat.

Look into the Razer Junglecat for yourself here.

† As usual, there are no affiliate links contained within this post. We were provided a Razer Junglecat for review purposes and were not compensated for this review.