TouchFox touch controller review – Play PC games on your Windows 8 tablet

One of the best features of Windows 8 is that it allows us to run PC games and apps on touchscreen devices like the Surface Pro. Whereas Windows RT tablets are limited to playing Windows RT games, full Windows 8 tablets can play not only tablet-oriented Windows 8 games but also Windows 7 games.

Of course, hardly any PC games actually support touch screen input. Civilization V is touch-optimized, but that's practically it. If you want to play a PC game on your tablet, you generally need either a controller or mouse and keyboard. But a handy new app called Touch Fox adds virtual controls to a handful of PC games that don't otherwise support touch. How does it work? Check out hands-on impressions with video to find out!

A Wolf, a GreenMan, and a Fox walk into a bar…

The process of setting up TouchFox is surprisingly complicated; TouchFox is not an independent application. It's actually an add-on for a PC program called Overwolf. The Overwolf application adds some cool features like Frames Per Second display, video capture, in-game web browser, and twitch streaming – so it's not a bad thing to have.

Having installed Overwolf and set up an account, you can then buy TouchFox "controllers" from Green Man Gaming (opens in new tab). After receiving a product key from Green Man, you then return to the Overwolf app. Launch the Overwolf Appstore, input your product key, and then the controller will be added to your account. The Redeem Code button is inexplicably hidden, however. It took me like 10 minutes to find it on my Surface Pro. On my laptop, the button seems to not be there at all. So Overwolf should probably fix that.

Supported games

Instead of buying a single TouchFox app and using it with all supported games, players must purchase TouchFox controllers for individual games. Each controller costs $3.99, which isn't too bad if you only want to play one or two games. But there's no reason TouchFox shouldn't be a single purchase that works with multiple games.

At launch, TouchFox controllers are available for 10 PC games:

  • Borderlands 2
  • Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
  • Castle Crashers
  • Crysis 2
  • DC Universe Online
  • F.E.A.R 3
  • LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
  • Magicka
  • Skyrim
  • The Witcher 2

Why support Borderlands 2 but not the first Borderlands? I don't know, but Overwolf promises to support more games in the future. One of those games will be World of Warcraft!

Setup and use

Once you have a TouchFox controller for a game you own, launch the TouchFox apps list and select the controller. From there, you can select a few different options:

  • Auto launch: Turn this on and the TouchFox controller will appear whenever you launch the game, even if you don't launch it from within Overwolf. But Overwolf still has to be running for this to work, obviously.
  • Play sound: Choose whether TouchFox makes button and stick sounds when you use it to play a game. I like the sounds since they tell me the controller is working.
  • Skins: Choose from five skins – HUD Green, Lightsaber Blue, Skully (a pirate theme), Skyrim, and The Original. A fair selection, but since each controller costs four bucks and is designed for a specific game, you'd think each game would get its own unique skin too.

Strangely, the button and stick layout shown in the skin preview simply doesn't match the layout you get during gameplay. The preview shows a logical layout that recreates the basic stick, d-pad, and button layout of an Xbox controller. But during gameplay, the buttons are positioned in different places and without respect for their ordinary relationship to each other. This inexplicable inequity adds a learning curve to the TouchFox experience that shouldn't be there.

After launching a supported game, the TouchFox control overlay should pop up as soon as the game starts. TouchFox basically emulates an Xbox 360 controller, so menu navigation works the same as it would with a physical controller. The overlay covers up the menu options in some games like The Witcher 2 though, making them harder to see. But that's pretty much unavoidable.

Occasionally the controls became unresponsive, such as when backing out to the main menu in The Witcher 2 or any time I Shift+Tabbed to the desktop and back to the game. When that happens, turning the controls off and then on again becomes necessary. Swiping inward from both horizontal edges of the screen with your thumbs will toggle the TouchFox controls. It took a little practice, but I can now turn the controls on and off consistently with the gesture.

Playing The Witcher 2 and Magicka with TouchFox

The first game I tried TouchFox with is The Witcher 2, a 3D action-RPG. This particular game is very graphically intensive, so much so that the original Surface Pro can barely handle it. Turning the resolution down to 720p and minimizing every graphical setting, the frame rate averages between 15-18 FPS (which I know because of Overwolf's handy FPS counter). So don't even try running it if your Windows 8 tablet's specs are lower than the Surface Pro's.

Frame rate aside, The Witcher 2 works really well with a touch screen. You use the left stick for movement and the right stick for camera control, much like when playing Gameloft's Six-Guns. TouchFox positions the action buttons around the top-right corner of the right stick for some reason, in the order Y-A-X-B. Combat mostly utilizes the X and B buttons, which must be the reason for the layout.

The Witcher 2 offers several difficulty levels to choose from. Given that the game was designed to be played with a physical controller or mouse and keyboard, touch controls present a slight but unavoidable disadvantage. But anybody who is used to virtual controls should get into the swing of things pretty quickly. Just play on Easy or Very Easy and you'll do fine.

Next I played Magicka, a 2D action-RPG. The game runs close to 30 FPS at 720p on the Surface Pro, so it's a fine candidate for Windows 8 tablet play...

TouchFox positions the action buttons along the right side of the right analog stick during Magicka. The right stick itself is used to cast spells, a mechanic I've always found unintuitive. TouchFox also places a second, smaller virtual stick beneath the buttons and the right analog stick. I didn't realize this extra stick is actually the d-pad that would appear on the left side of a physical controller, so I kept trying to use it as the right analog stick. Just an example of how strange control placement leads to confusion.

A similar issue: Magicka doesn't use the letters of the four main buttons as on-screen button prompts. Instead, it displays a little graphic of the four unlabeled buttons and highlights whatever button you're supposed to press. So you'd normally see the left-most button highlighted and then press the X button. But TouchFox uses a different button layout, necessitating more of a mental conversion in order to figure out what to press. Again, you can get used to it. But why should we have to?

Almost there

Allowing gamers to play PC games using the touch screen of their Windows 8 tablets is a great concept. Some of us simply crave more complex games than we'd generally find in the Windows 8 Store. And TouchFox mostly delivers on the concept, with highly responsive controls and the welcome "Auto Launch" feature. Also, each controller offers a trial so users can see how well their supported games work with touch before buying.

Great idea or not, TouchFox still needs some polish before I can recommend it wholeheartedly. The weird button layouts that don't even match the skin preview images need to go, or they should at least be optional. Give us several control options and let us reposition the control elements to our liking. Do that, fix the bugs, offer a higher-priced version that supports multiple games, and TouchFox will become a compelling accessory app for Windows 8 tablet gamers.

  • TouchFox – Windows 8 – $3.99 per controller – Store Link (opens in new tab)
Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • I want to use my Xbox controller on my 2520
  • You can. I use it on my rt. Well if the games incorporate it.
  • Interesting. I plugged my Xbox One controller into my RT, and the drivers installed fine, but I couldn't find the gamepad applet in the control panel so I assumed gamepads weren't supported on RT. Which games use it? I assume HSA, any others?
  • You can, I play Halo and BlazBlue with a controller all the time. ...this... looked awesome for only a second... then it became very clear that it was limited and frustrating. VirtualGamepad allows you to do SO much more, and it'll work with any game that already allows for keyboard input.
  • I will check it out. Maybe we could do a roundup of all three competing touch controller apps.
  • You can use an Xbox 360 controller if you have the wireless sensor. Otherwise, the Xbox One controller support isn't here yet for RT devices.
  • There are wired Xbox 360 controllers too. That's what I prefer to use with my computer or tablet.
  • Once Xbox one controller drivers are added to Windows Update, it will be supported.
  • The future of mobile gaming is with windows! enjoy ur flappy birds iturds.
  • Windows phone should have one button just like windows tablets
  • Oh hell naw... I love my Back and Search buttons, you'll have to pry them from my cold dead hands.
  • True. I love my back and search button. WP should have it. People also vote for this idea in WP uservoice site.
  • Huh? But WP already does have a Search and Back button, what are you trying to get us to vote for exactly?
  • No I meant when the news came out back before WP 8.1 announced. It says Microsoft want to ditch the search and back button. So people vote for it in WP uservoice to tell Microsoft they didn't want search and back button removed
  • Indeed and plus it may have created more incompatibility for older devices running WP 8.0, the last thing we needed was another WP7 fiasco lol.
  • I wanna try it But don't have windows tablet
  • Wow,that's really cool
  • Can i play pc games in my L1320 too?
  • Does your L1320 run Windows 8/8.1?
  • I can't believe this fuckery. That's highway robbery as far as pricing goes. And the control layout is so damn confusing its like a slap in the face. Good concept, poor execution. For the price, there should be customization and a solid layout. Good review though, Paul.
  • "Whereas Windows RT tablets are limited to playing Windows RT games, full Windows 8 tablets can play not only tablet-oriented Windows 8 games but also Windows 7 games."
    It's so annoying when bloggers/authors compare RT to Pro.  First, by referring to the latter as "full Windows".  Second, by making the comparison in the first place.  It would be like an Apple blogger comparing an iOS device to a Mac. Yes, Microsoft fumbled the Windows RT brand in many confusing ways, but it's been around long enough to be recognized as Microsoft's ARM-based operating system for tablets and phones, just like iOS is for Apple. If WPCentral wanted to right this wrong, they'd tell their editors to make a better distinction than "full Windows" or not make it at all.
  • Not everyone understands this, even though it's been around for a while now. My mother fir example has a Surface and I have a Surface Pro. Everytime she see's me using a software like Photoshop she asks me if she can have it on her tablet and everytime not only do I have to tell her she can't but I have to explain to her why she can't. So I know most people who are good with computers understand this, but the internet isn't only for people who are good with computers. Also, Windows 8 tablets are still new to most people, it's not like iPads that everyone knows about them. Most people that see my Surface Pro didn't even know it existed before they saw me with it. And since we want the community to grow, we have to take into account that some of these people new to Windows 8 are starting to come on WPcentral every week.
  • How do you think they should make the distinction?
  • Personally, I would not make the comparison.  But if I had to make the distinction that would help new and experienced users, I would use the Intel brand.  It's not ideal, but the lesser of the evils. For example, "Windows devices with an Intel processor can run Photoshop, PC games, and all the Anti-Virus software you want.  Windows devices without an Intel (or AMD) processor can only run apps installed from the Windows Store." Yes, that's a mouthful because we're trying to fix an inherent problem created by Microsoft's branding of Windows RT.  But in the end, Windows running on ARM is a problem that Microsoft really needs to solve.
  • Although I love Microsoft platforms, I don't feel that extra touch of loyalty that inspires one to dance around the issue. Your argument reminds me a bit of Nintendo fans who become offended when the rest of the world points out that the Wii U is not part of the same console generation as the Xbox One and Playstation 4. There's a valid perspective for thinking that way, but the other perspective is also valid and more prominent.
  • You're the writer, Paul, so you have the power of the pen and the forum. I guess my originally articulated point fell flat, so I'll try a different approach...  You don't have to make one platform inferior in order to make another superior.  It's like saying I have to make other people look bad in order for me to look good.   Instead of comparing platforms, just simply say "x will not work on devices running Windows RT."  It supports the rest of your story, it's factual, and does not imply any superiority or inferiority.  It may be different than what you're used to writing, but would that be considered an extra touch of loyaty?
  • You think non techie people know what processor is in their tablet?
  • I just tell my mom she bought the cheap version and it won't work :)
  • Actually you can run x64/x86 applications on a RT tablet, use remote desktop or teamviewer to remote in to a x86 /x64 PC. Admittedly users with basic knowledge will find this concept difficult to comprehend unless proper training is provided.
  • Get win azure and the worst computer (but it has to have access to internet and rdp), connect it and use it like a boss
  • I disagree.
  • +928
  • I agree about naming schemes and MS needing to distinguish the two really well. Thing is, you can't distinguish based on processor type or branding of processor. There are multiple processor manufactures and you can't base you products based of some other company because its their product and you don't know what they will do with their names in the future or if the company will be around or what company will be used in the future. And people just don't know about arm and x86 processors. They simply need to distinguish the names. People should know what windows 8 and windows rt is or what ever they should call rt in the future.
  • They needed to fight for the name Metro.
    Microsoft Metro: The mobile OS - for Windows Phone & RT (I know metro was the codename for the design language but it could have been great brand in its own right).
  • Ha Ha HA You have to buy "the controller" for individual games. Good one. NOPE!
  • Just! Use! A! Xbox! Controller! Or! A! Virtual! Gamepad!
  • seems to be cool enough but no tablets :( hope i win in hidden gems :P
  • Whereas Windows RT tablets are limited to playing Windows RT games, full Windows 8 tablets can play not only tablet-oriented Windows 8 games but also Windows 7 games.
      This is getting annoying.   do we always have to be reminded that Windows RT cannot run tradition desktop apps and games? Why don't you complain about Windows Phone or android or iOS  not running traditonal desktop games and apps ?
  • There are people who read articles on here that don't know that so it's good to educate them. If they go out and buy a Surface 2 expecting to be able to do this they will just be disappointed. Saying they can't run regular games isn't saying they're bad, it's just making a distinction. You're overreacting.
  • Exactly.
  • No need to be dismissive.  We're just trying to provide feedback, by taking time to post our opinions of the article, which is the original intent and purpose of the comments section. All we're saying is that Paul didn't need the first paragraph of this article to support his featuring of the TouchFox touch controller.  Since this isn't an article about what RT can or cannot do, he could have just stated that TouchFox will not work on Windows RT, then moved on. We all want the same thing from WPCentral - timely, well-written, inclusive articles that educate and inform.
  • It's relevant to the article. No need to be overly sensitive about the difference between the two operating systems.
  • try gameplay from gestureworks.  it is easy to set up controllers for most games.  it is a more finished product.  the only * is that it only works on i think dx9 and newer games.  had some dx8.1 that i wanted to try but no dice.   anyway iis pay once then downloäd controllers premade or make your own
  • Yes gesture works is great and you can make your own controllers if there is an unsupported game.
    Also it works with steam steaming (although not officially supported)
  • What game is that Paul?
  • Didntcha read the article? Witcher 2 and Magicka.
  • witcher 2 on a tablet?? Lol!! my desktop barely handled it!!
  • 18-20 fps is not handling either, 25< and I won't accept it as handling!
  • There is also Gestureworks Gameplay. Same function but $15 for 200 controllers.
  • +1 on Gestureworks.  I been looking at it for a while and now it has some sort of Steam integration (I haven't tried it yet).  I bought it on sale on Steam for $5 just in time for my SP3.  They seem to have a decent community that uploads their configurations for specific games.
  • We'll be reviewing that too. It's good but has a whole different set of problems.
  • 16fps is awful.
  • It should be $2.99 buy in with three controllers, and $.99 for each additional as in app purchases. I think that would be fair since each has to be custom build for a game.
  • RT
  • ...but can it play Doom? ;-)
  • Coming soon World of warcraft on a tablet!  
  • As a windows developer, I had this idea several years ago, and tried to make a WPF application to program it...but I was never successful. Kudos to this developer!!!
  • Its hard, but not impossible, I made sth like this for WINDOWED minecraft, on fullscreen, when you click it, the Game gets back to windowed mode.
  • Cool. Just installed Skyrim on my pro 3. Will give this a go. The trackpad really stinks, imo, despite all that Microsoft touted it
  • I've only used the original TypePad, but I totally agree. Let us know what FPS you get when running the game at 720p and 720p with all effects turned down! :)
  • Do normal tablets even support the graphics intensive games like Crysis 2....without dedicated gaming graphics cards?
  • It all depends on how low the game's graphical settings can be set, which varies from game to game. The Surface Pro 3 for example is more powerful than the Surface Pro that I own, so it could run some games like The Witcher 2 at a higher frame rate than my tablet.
  • What FPS do you get when you play The Witcher 2 on your Surface Pro 3....don't expect it to be too high :/
  • He probably has 30-40 fps on it. But with more tinkering, It may be 60fps.
  • Nice FPS you've got there on Witcher 2 :p. Really Witcher 2 is not the kind of game that will run nice on an average tablet.
  • Heh, yup. I just tried Witcher 2 and Magicka because those are the only two supported games that I already own.
  • Yikes. A complicated set up AND $4 per controller? I think I'll wait on this one.
  • MMORPGs are best played with gesture-based controls in my opinion.  Titles like Guild Wars, Eve Online, or Path of Exile would be very nice to have.
  • I have run Crysis 1 on my SP1 with my xbox controller with no problems, as well as Fifa 14. Thats a long ways from what you were doing Paul. Great article as always.
  • Thanks Paul!
  • HahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahhaHahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahhaHahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahahhahahahha
  • I disagree that this should be one purchase for all games. Obviously they do a lot of customisation and tuning for each game, so why shouldn't they be paid for that?
  • If you could set up your own placement this might work, but it all depends on how intuitive they are with their pad designs.
  • Paul, First of all, thank you for taking the time to write such an extensive review of our product. I’d like to offer a concise response, as there are some things that your readers might find interesting. User customization is probably the most requested feature by our users, following by support for additional games. We’re planning on adding controller customization and opening skin creation to the TouchFox community in the future. We’ll also be supporting more and more games as we go. Support for games like WoW (which we demonstrated back in 2012) is also being considered. Regarding pricing, we’re taking user feedback into consideration and looking into additional pricing options. I’d also like to add that the controllers have a trial version available on our Appstore. P.S. The supposedly redundant stick in Magicka is the D-pad, which is used to scroll through Magicks. It probably didn't work because spell combinations come at a later point in the game. Rock On!
    Alon Rabinovitz, VP of Apps, Overwolf
  • Thanks Alon! The strange placement of the Magicka d-pad is what confused me. I'll update the story to clarify that point. I added mention of the trial at the review's conclusion as well. We'll look forward to covering future TouchFox updates and seeing what games you support next!