Review: Amazon Luna is a demanding cloud gaming service that has potential

I think cloud gaming will become the standard in the coming years. It’s already starting to happen with Xbox Cloud Gaming, NVIDIA GeForce Now, and there are even some games available on Nintendo Switch only through the cloud. One of the big contenders in cloud gaming right now is Amazon Luna. The Amazon Luna team was kind enough to send me a free Luna controller and subscriptions to many, if not all, of the channels available on Luna so I could review it. You can find my thoughts below.

First, let’s talk about how Luna works. If you’re using a compatible device, you can access games via the cloud. The games you have access to depend on the channels you subscribe to. If you have Amazon Prime, you automatically get access to the Prime Gaming Channel, which is a rotating selection of games. At the time of writing, some of the Prime Gaming options include Timesie, Youtubers Life OMG!And Connected Tetris effect. Games rotate monthly. Other channels include Luna+, Family, Retro, Ubisoft+ and Jackbox Games. Channel subscriptions range from around $5-18.

I have mixed feelings about the channel system. On the one hand, I think there is a lot of wisdom. If you’re only interested in playing retro titles, spending $5 a month is way better than $10 for a bigger library. Provides some flexibility in what you play. However, there doesn’t seem to be an option to access all channels at a cheaper rate. If you wanted to have access to say Skatebird, Street Fighter IIAnd Resident Evil 2 (the remake), so you have to subscribe to three different channels, and not only is that a pretty significant financial burden (about $21 for all three of those channels), it’s also cumbersome. If Amazon is dead on this model, I’d recommend making Luna+ the all-encompassing channel and include at least the Family and Retro channels.

Next, I will share my experience with trying to use and navigate Luna. I got very frustrated with Luna when I tried to use my tablet or phone. You’ll need to check compatible devices, because it makes a bit of a difference. My tablet is a Lenovo P11 Plus which is not listed. However, Amazon says you can access Luna through your browser. I did that and then it made me download the android app. Once inside the app it was so slow and so poorly designed I almost couldn’t even play the game. I also have a OnePlus 7T which is listed as supported and my experience was slightly better but the app was still slow and awkward to navigate. It wasn’t a good experience. On PC, I was able to use Microsoft Edge to play games (I normally use Brave [another Chrome browser] and had problems) with less problems. The UI on the website/web app is better (not perfect).

One major gripe I have with Luna is that you can’t play the game on a TV unless you’re using a Fire TV device. I already have a Chromecast, so I’m not going to go out and buy a Fire TV device just for it. I wish they would open it for Chromecast. Maybe now that Stadia is dead they will? Who am I kidding, they’re going to use this to try and push the Fire TV.

Now it’s time to talk about the Luna controller. I’m personally not a fan. Overall, it’s not the worst controller, but the 4 main buttons just don’t feel right to me. They are designed to be flat on top with rounded bevels running down to the bottom. I don’t know why, but it doesn’t make me feel good. Those buttons and d-pad feel very cheap too. The triggers feel more like an Xbox controller so there is no click, but the Luna triggers feel noticeably stiffer which I see as a con. Also, like the Xbox controller, the Luna controller uses AA batteries instead of using a rechargeable battery. BOO! I liked that the Luna controller naturally directs my fingers in a similar way to a Switch Pro controller where it’s very comfortable to hold. Also, I like heavy controllers and the Luna controller has some heft to it. It weighs 283g versus the Switch Pro controller’s 249g and the Xbox Series S controller 289g. I would take what they have, change the shape and material of the buttons and d-pad, give it a rechargeable battery, and then adjust the triggers to so they feel less stiff.

So, the controller wasn’t a hit, trying to get to a game felt cumbersome, and the channel model isn’t my favorite. How did the games play out though? Once I was in a game, they tended to run well. This is one area where my tablet has struggled and I’m wondering if it has to do with that compatibility. However, the OnePlus 7T performed well. When I tried to play the game on my PC, it seemed to take a while to get to the full 1080p resolution despite it being a wired connection (aka my best internet connection) of my tests. Tried a variety of games including Hot wheels unleashed, Ghostrunners, Sonic Ultimate colors, Skatebird, Castlevania, and more. Once you’re in a game, you’ll likely have a decent experience if you have a good internet connection.

Luna has potential, especially as Google exits the game. If Amazon wanted to, they could really make Luna something great. I don’t expect them to though. I guess the app will stay awful forever and not expand their list of compatible devices to the point where people get frustrated and won’t use it. I didn’t mention it, but the games available through Luna are actually really good, you just need to figure out which channels to subscribe to to get the games you want. However, since no one will use Luna because it’s not advertised much, UI needs help, etc. it will likely be killed off in the not too distant future and consumers will be blamed. The score below is based on my current reactions to using Luna, but I think it has great potential if Amazon is willing to put in the effort.

by Tommy Williams
Source: Geek Tyrant

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