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8BitDo Lite Controller Review

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The 8BitDo Lite controller is adorable and absurd. It’s a Bluetooth controller designed to be the perfect accessory for the Nintendo Switch Lite – complete with a tiny size and matching paint job. Only, the Nintendo Switch Lite doesn’t have a kickstand or TV Mode support – it has almost zero use for Bluetooth controllers. To confuse things even further, the 8BitDo has two D-pads. Why?

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That’s a question I still can’t answer.

Design and Features

The first thing you’ll notice about the 8BitDo Lite is that it’s small – even smaller than the 8BitDo’s SN30. My wife says it looks a bit like a McDonald’s hash brown, but spray-painted to the exact hue of the Switch Lite and implanted with buttons. The shape makes it feel smaller than it is, and at 3.04 ounces, it feels pleasantly hefty.

The second thing you’ll notice is its two asymmetrical D-Pads. 8BitDo makes a decent D-Pad, and the Lite is no exception. The concave D-Pad fits your thumb pleasantly and depresses with a reassuring click. The frame is equipped with two rounded triggers and two minuscule chiclets for the bumper buttons. The bumpers are oddly named R2 and L2 instead of ZR and ZL, but they work the same. There’s an LED indicator on the bottom and 8BitDo’s trademark Star and Heart buttons on the face – used for navigation, screenshots, and Turbo on PC.

The controller works in both Bluetooth and wired mode and comes equipped with a (short) USB-C cord. Despite the size of the gamepad, the Lite has a pretty spectacular battery, which is rated at 18 hours of play and charges in just under two hours.

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While clearly aimed at Switch Lite owners, the Lite controller is compatible with Switch, PC, and Raspberry Pi. It costs $24.99.

Performance and Gaming

The 8BitDo Lite is twee enough to make you ignore that inner voice in your head. You love it at first sight; it’s like the Baby Yoda of controllers. (And just like Baby Yoda, you’ll eventually be completely sick of it.)

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8BitDo boasts that the Lite is “designed with two D-pads for total 2D gaming action.” Unfortunately, I have yet to find a 2D game made better by two D-pads. But I’ve found plenty that perform worse. 8BitDo calls out Tetris 99 specifically as a game that the controller is uniquely suited for. The right D-pad does, in fact, make it easier to cycle between attacking strategies. But by default, the left D-pad doesn’t even do anything.

The story gets even bleaker with 3D games. During a match of Rocket League (a game I’ve played somewhere between dozens and hundreds of hours), I could barely hit the ball. I didn’t expect it to have such a massive impact on my gaming, but I took for granted the gradations of directional input. 100% left and 20% left mean drastically different things when you’re driving a car in Rocket League, dribbling around defenders in FIFA, or even running through the open fields of Dragon Quest.

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I understand that this controller is catered to retro games, but even so, the majority of games I tested that felt passable with the 8BitDo Lite didn’t use both D-Pads. And the games that did felt worse. It’s not much of a surprise, really. If a game is programmed for two separate directional inputs, it’s probably meant for thumbsticks.

If whatever game you’re playing calls for the click of an occasional R3 or L3, the Lite is borderline unusable. The only way to activate R3 is by hitting all four of the directional inputs at once. This requires a weird thumb squish-type maneuver – it helps if you have larger hands. But otherwise, while gaming with the Lite, large hands are not an asset.

The D-Pads themselves are exceptional. They have that “clicky” feel you want from a D-Pad. But unfortunately, for how solid they are, the controller’s size makes them difficult to use. The Lite’s profile is so small, and its body so thin, it all becomes uncomfortable quickly. I often used the bottom joint of my thumb instead of the top. In my first five minutes with the controller, my hand was cramping between the pinky and ring finger.

Purchasing Guide

The 8BitDo Lite controller is available on Amazon for $25.

This article was originally published by IGN.COM

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