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Review: Amazon Luna Has a Secret Weapon

Photo: Amazon’s Luna controller. Antal Bokor

With the new console generation quickly approaching, cloud gaming isn’t the biggest attention-getter. That’s why, perhaps, I’m not seeing a ton of coverage on Amazon Luna and its accompanying controller. I requested early access to Amazon’s Luna cloud based video game platform and I got it, thinking that Luna would be, at best, on par with Google Stadia—but the results were a little surprising.

First of all, I haven’t spent much time on Stadia over the last year since my review. Google’s cloud gaming service just hasn’t attracted my attention. While Stadia’s performance was certainly impressive around the time of its debut, in action, it just hasn’t manifested as a service that is on par with playing games on actual hardware. That’s why Amazon’s Luna was just another curiosity to me—I didn’t think it could possibly compete, or at least outdo Stadia or its other cloud based competition—I was wrong.

As cloud based gaming platforms go, Luna stands about shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest. No one single cloud gaming service feels like a huge improvement over the other. Its visuals seemed a little crisper than Stadia’s upon testing, and titles loaded a little quicker, but it wasn’t a night and day difference—that is, until I used Amazon’s wireless enabled controller.

Photo: Controller comparison. Antal Bokor

The controller for Amazon Luna sounded gimmicky: it directly connected to wi-fi, and directly to the games you want to play. It doesn’t connect to the device you’re playing the game on, so it removes a point of lag, and claims to directly connect to the game you’re playing. I’m not sure the technical specifications behind this, I just know that it works a lot better than I could ever expect.

When you want to set up a controller to work with Google Stadia, your choices are limited. You can sync it to the app, or to a Chromecast set up to play Stadia games. After the device sees your controller, you have to enter in a code by pushing buttons on the controller—then, after a few seconds of thinking (and syncing?) you are able to use the controller. It’s not a seamless process, and it fails often enough that’s it’s annoying. The Amazon Luna controller, however, is seamless.

To set up the Amazon Luna controller, you’ll first need to set it up in the app in a syncing process that feels a bit like Stadia, and a bit like syncing a controller wirelessly to a console. Once the controller is recognized on your device, the magic happens. You can use your Amazon Luna controller on any device you have that can play Luna—at least, as far as I’ve tested. In fact, I don’t see how it wouldn’t work, because the controller never connects to your device, but knows when you’re playing a game, ready to accept inputs for that game within seconds.

Photo: Amazon Luna controller. Antal Bokor

The controller isn’t perfect. It feels like an Xbox One controller, which is great, but it has overly stiff buttons. I’m hoping they’ll work themselves looser with time, but it’s almost an effort to press them in right now. There is no rechargeable battery—you have to use AA batteries, at least for now. I’d like to see an option to add a chargeable solution, and the Luna controller even has a USB-C port to facilitate that. It also works with Alexa voice service, but I didn’t really feel too much of a need to use it—and it feels superfluous. But I absolutely love the textured grip, and the overall feel of the controller. It even manages to look snazzy with its purple, gray, and black color scheme.

Does the controller make Amazon Luna worth it? Not really. It is a solid streaming service, but the offerings are sparse. It’s a subscription-based service, so you don’t have to buy the games you want to play on it—but there aren’t many games yet. Still, there are certainly some good games on there—like Control, the Contra Collection and the Castlevania Collection, Metro Exodus, Surge 2, Sonic Mania, and a few others.

To be clear: playing on Luna without the Luna controller feels like it would on other cloud-based services, and the mouse and keyboard controls even manage to feel a little bit laggier than Stadia, even on the same computer and connection.  For Luna, it’s all about the controller, and that means a $50 investment, with the price rising later. You can only purchase the Luna controller if you are currently invited to Amazon’s gaming service, too.

Amazon’s Luna controller is really a game changer for me. It’s the new standard for how controllers should work when you’re starting up cloud-based games—you turn on the device, and the controller just works. It’s like magic. For full disclosure, I wasn’t given review access to Luna, nor was I given a controller for review—they’re my own personal purchases. I’m just so impressed with the controller; I had to share the news. It’s too bad there really isn’t much to play yet.

 

You can find out more about Amazon Luna here.

 

 

 

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5 replies »

  1. I didn’t get the point of the article. Stadia works exactly the same way as ChiZ also work it. What’s really the speciality of Luna compared to Stadia then?

    • The controller…. The entire article is a piece that revolves mainly around the controller, and how it improves the over all experience. So you didn’t understand; or you didn’t read passed the first paragraph? The author clearly states that the service itself is roughly the same as Stadia with an over all better experience due to the… You guessed it… The controller.

  2. On a Chromecast Ultra, you don’t need to input the code every time at all. You only do it during the initial setup, then you can simply just turn on the controller every other time and it will not only connect to Stadia, but on most TVs these days will also make the input switch over automatically to the CCU. So Stadia in fact feels just like a console as well when playing on a CCU (which offers the best experience tbh).

  3. Hello! The Stadia controller actually works in the exact same way. It connects directly to your wifi rather than any individual device. Third party controllers need to be physically connected, or connected via Bluetooth, but I imagine for Luna this is the same. Might be worth jumping back on Stadia to do a more direct comparison as I think a lot has been improved since launch!

    • Hi– I read these comments, and did a little bit more testing. Honestly, the Luna controller is just so much more seamless.
      Yes, I can use my controller wirelessly with my PC now, but the Luna controller just knows when a game is launched and will work. I don’t have to use a linking code to switch between devices when using Luna. If this is also the case for Stadia, I don’t know how to enable it–if I switch between devices with my Stadia controller, I have to relink every for every device. When I go from a game on my desktop to laptop, I have to enter in a new linking code. Not so for Luna.

      Thanks for reading!

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