Impulse Bluetooth Controller Unboxing and Full Review

On September 20, 2012, Black Powder Media started a KickStarter campaign on a new product that they were working on.  The product was a small bluetooth controller that can control your iOS or Android device while being small enough to be hung on a set of keys without a problem.

The Impulse Controller started requesting funds for this project on September 20th with a funding goal of $50,000.  Black Powder not only reached their goal, but surpassed it for a total of $139,000 within 16 days.  This unfortunately resulted with the company being backed up with orders and not being able to fulfill their estimated delivery date of February 2013.  Black Powder also decided to remove the analog stick from the controller and replace it with a D-Pad instead which allowed them to reduce the size of the controller by 20%, however this only delayed the production even further.

Impulse Bluetooth Controller

Once the Kickstarter campaign was finished, they started accepting pre-orders on their website, with the black plastic model starting at $25.  In June of 2013 nerd&tech placed a pre-order for the standard edition during the time when the website stated it will ship in July.  Unfortunately due to the amount of pre-orders and kickstarter orders already due, this ETA was not meet and resulted in the item being shipped mid-October.

How does the iMpulse Bluetooth controller fair up to the hype?

Our first Impression of the controller was how large it is to be hanging on a set of keys, but it’s the perfect size to put in your back pocket or in your backpack without causing issues. If it was any smaller though, gaming would be uncomfortable, so this should be the minimum size for any mobile controller.

The addition of the D-PAD is a great plus since the majority of users will be playing emulated retro games with the controller.  A large library of games already support the controller, however emulation is where its main target audience will be.  The removable sleeve is a great addition as well to protect the controller, however the cut out that is suppose to double as a stand doesn’t work so great for those that are not Apple users or those who are using a case to protect their device.

Since our test phone was a Samsung Galaxy S Relay with a QWERTY keyboard, the sleeve became useless as a stand but a good protector for the controller itself.  We synced both devices together with bluetooth and realized nothing is happening.  We went to the iMpulse website and saw the header on the top left

 How Do I Use iMpulse Bluetooth controller

That was surprising but we don’t blame them since this product is suppose to do more than just be a gamepad. We installed the required apps and followed the instructions for setup so that the controller knows if it’s connected to an iOS or Android and whether the person is left handed or right handed.  Once that’s accomplished there are two separate modes the controller be preset to, gaming and media.  Though this sounds long, in total it only took us about 2 minutes to accomplish everything.

One of the first games we tested this controller on was our N64 emulator for Android ICS.  The controller synced just well with the bluetooth controller and we were able to map the keys immediately and play Mario 64, however this is where we realized its limitations.

The controller has a 6 button layout, 4 on the front and 2 on the back.  When referring to a 6 button layout, most retro gamers will immediately think of the Super Nintendo Controller, unfortunately they would be wrong as the SNES controller has a total of 8 button when you count the Start and Select inputs.  Since this controller only has a total of 6 buttons, you’ll be forced to use your touchscreen for the start and select if you’re playing any games that require more than 4 action buttons.   Due to the size of the controller, don’t expect to play any action heavy or button mashing games such as Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat or anything that requires precision and timing due to the size of the controller.

The controller does not work as a dedicated gamepad, instead it mimics a keyboard on your device through the installed app.  What look like symbols on the controller are actually the keys that the controller is controlling.

The layouts for the front action buttons are M, W, V and A.  The buttons on the back are a lower case U and a lower case N since they look similar when flipped.  Whether this is confusing to you or not, many USB controllers do the same thing but don’t make it obvious.  The Saitek P990 would do exactly this when the “FPS” button was lit.  This was for compatibility purposes so players can use the gamepad on games that did not offer joystick or gamepad inputs.  The left analog stick would control W, A, S, D while the right analog stick would control the mouse.


In the end, for the pre-order price of $25 it’s well worth it, however that price has recently gone up and anything over $30 would be too much for this product.  It’s a gaming controller for the casual mobile gammer that doesn’t feel like lugging around a huge gamepad like the Nyko Playpad, however for the repeat and hardcore mobile gammers, we would rather recommend the SteelSeries Free controller, however it does carry a much heftier price tag. .