Joy-Cons are small. They are designed so that Switch can be a sleek, nearly-seamless handheld gaming device. Hori’s Split Pad Pro is what happens when ideas like “small” and “sleek” and “not ridiculous” are tossed out the window. The more I play with them, gripping them in my larger-than-average hands, the less I mind their chonkiness and lack of extended functionality.
The £50 Split Pad Pro, recently released to coincide with the launch of Switch mech shooter Daemon X Machina, lacks a lot of features found in Nintendo Joy-Cons. It does not do motion control. It has no camera. It does not scan Amiibos. It does not rumble. The Split Pad Pro doesn’t even contain an internal battery, so it does not function in tabletop or TV mode. And good luck to you if you try to put the Switch into the dock with these attached.
What the Split Pad Pro does do is transform the Nintendo Switch from a sleek handheld into an awkward-looking device that plays games quite well, especially for those of us with large paws. Instead of the Switch’s tiny analogue sticks, the Split Pad Pro sports a pair with slightly more thumb surface than the Xbox One’s sticks. The face buttons are larger and deeper, with a more satisfying tactile response than the Joy-Cons’. The left and right triggers are larger and more responsive as well.
Instead of four directional buttons, the left side of the Split Pad Pro sports a standard D-pad.
The Split Pad Pro also boasts a couple of features not found on Joy-Cons. Both halves of the unit sport programmable turbo functions, complete with adjustable speed. On the back of each side is another programmable button, which can be remapped on the fly to any control on the front.
With no batteries or cameras or rumble, the Hori Split Pad Pro weighs about the same as a pair of Joy-Cons, despite its additional bulk. The Switch looks ridiculously bloated with it attached but it feels quite nice. There is a little wiggle room around where each half of the controller connects to the Switch, but a tab of plastic extending from them to the back of the Switch helps maintain stability.
I played my Switch with the Split Pad Pro over the weekend, rolling through my regular lineup of rhythm games, RPGs, platformers, and the odd fighting game. I missed some Joy-Con functionality, notably the rumble effects. I did not miss the occasional cramps I get while manipulating those tiny Joy-Cons for hours on end with my large hands.
I’ve only had the Hori Split Pad Pro for about a week, so I can’t comment on the long-term survivability of these large, yet lightweight, Joy-Con alternatives. I will say that whenever I foresee long stretches of handheld Switch gaming, the Split Pad Pro will be coming with me.