Jacknife Gamer Gamepad review - "A pocket-sized controller with a few issues"

Duncan Mao's USP for the Jacknife Gamer gamepad is that it's a far more portable option than anything else currently available on Android. At first, it seems like a strange boast. The Razer Kishi V2, Backbone One, and Turtle Beach Atom are hardly massive controllers. But after getting my hands on this teeny tiny controller, it's definitely a hyper-portable option compared to what's available on the market. The question is whether or not its trade-offs for being so little are worth the extra mobility it provides.

Weighing a barely noticeable 40 grams with dimensions of 64mm x 29mm x 27mm when closed, the Jacknife Gamer pad is small enough to slip into your pocket. Though you can throw most mobile gamepads in a bag, you'd struggle to stuff the Backbone One into your jeans. Admittedly it's a niche usage. During a trip where I feel a controller is necessary, I take a bag. But for anyone who frequently commutes sans backpack, it's a great way to game on the go without taking up much space on your person.

Portability like no other controller

It also looks awesome, sporting a retro-inspired aesthetic that will likely remind you of the NES controller, despite the fact it's not that close of a resemblance in reality. The physical appearance isn't the only boon, though. The Jacknife Gamer gamepad attaches to your controller using the clip-style set-up, something I've previously mentioned I usually dislike. In this case, though, it fits neatly on my Google Pixel 3a and steers clear of the volume button, an issue I've often had previously.

However, not all phones are designed equally, so the clip might not fit onto your phone as well as it doesn't mine. And that suitability for everyone is an issue with the Jacknife Gamer gamepad across the board. Your eyes might have narrowed when you read the dimensions. Surely, a controller that small will feel cramped in most adult hands? In my experience, it depends. If I played something like Dadish, which only requires the use of the d-pad and face buttons, there was no issue. However, if I played a game that needed the two triggers, it became an uncomfortable experience.

Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on

They are both located at the bottom of the controller, with their positioning designed to mirror where a person's hands would naturally fall. That's not the case for me. It never stopped feeling weird trying to use LB and RB to the point that I wouldn't use this controller for any game where you need them. Similarly, since there's limited space on the Jacknife, there is no analogue stick, meaning games that won't control well with a d-pad are also out of the equation. But if your hands fall naturally into that position when holding the controller, it might be a different story.

It's a thought that occurred to me a lot during my time with the controller that hasn't been the case with previous pads I've tested. The Razer Kishi V2, Backbone One, and co all feel the same regardless of which phone I used, but the Jacknife seems to depend on different factors; the size of the user's hands, where their fingers naturally fall, and the size of the phone. The Google Pixel 3a is, by modern-day standards, a small and light phone. With something larger and heavier, the Jacknife may become uncomfortable quite quickly, since you'll be battling against the weight of your phone the entire session.

Of course, it is a Bluetooth controller, so you don't necessarily have to use the clip if you can prop your phone up somewhere or are content to play with it on your lap or something similar. And you will be able to do so for a long time. The Jacknife boasts an impressive 60-hour battery per charge. So, it will survive the longest of commutes or flights. Just don't forget it will need charging at some point.

Jacknife Gamer Gamepad review - "A pocket-sized controller with a few issues"

All of these factors make the Jacknife Gamer gamepad a hard controller to judge. It's already catering for a niche – mobility. But when you throw in all the caveats, such as different phone models, hand sizes, and where the user's hands will naturally fall, it becomes a niche within a niche. There's nothing wrong with the functionality of the controller. It just isn't going to suit everyone. And for that reason, I've placed it right in the middle of our review scale. It could be the perfect controller for one person and the worst for another.
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen brings both a love of games and a very formal-sounding journalism qualification to the Pocket Gamer team.