I am but one of the many geeks who appreciate older gaming technology (otherwise I wouldn’t be running this site aye). I still reminisce and appreciate all the video gaming I experienced throughout my childhood, and am thankful to my mum for taking me to the major video arcades back in the day. And as much as I appreciate the old tech, I definitely appreciate new technology as well. For instance, a couple of months ago I purchased a newfangled iPad 2 as a replacement for my laptop, and to be honest I haven’t missed having a laptop at all. Besides, my beefy desktop computer does everything I need anyway. So yeah, iPad 2! I also play games on it! There are a lot of cool games on the device (which does utilise the big screen) but there have been a lot of days where I don’t want to just use a screen for controls.
How to remedy this you ask? Well, with an iCade of course! What started as an April Fool’s Day prank on Thinkgeek, became reality 12 or so months later (as you can see in the photo above). It is a desk top arcade cabinet into which you slide the iPad 2, and with an iCade-supported app you’ll be able to play games using controls, like in the arcades. Sort of!
So it arrives disassembled as you can see in the photo above. The parts feel solid and well made. The joystick used is my favourite, the ball top stick system. I have issues using bat tops for some reason. It may be the length of the stick due to having big hands, but this thing is fine for the task at hand.
Assemblage didn’t take long, and the iCade is powered by either 2x AA batteries, or you can soon purchase a power supply from ionaudio.com. It doesn’t stay on with either however, it powers down after a few minutes of not being used. To reactivate, press any button or move the joystick. The ‘coin slot’ on the front of the iCade indicates that the bluetooth activity is on when lit. The top opens like a hatch, and you slide the iPad or iPad 2 into the dock. Now keep in mind, this is not a charging dock. It just sits on a dock and controls are done via Bluetooth.
Synchronising to the iPad via Bluetooth was a breeze, you get prompted for a pin number for the connectivity which is done by using a combination of the joystick and the buttons on the iCade. Okay, now that it’s all set up and assembled, lets try some games out!
Luckily I’ve already downloaded Atari’s Greatest Hits, with all the games purchased for around AU$17. So that purchase includes 92 Atari games made on the 2600 as well as the 18 Arcade titles (at the time of posting this). So let me take a moment to delve into this app briefly. It’s a free download, but you pay for the games in the app; either individually, in packs, or the whole lot in one fell swoop. Of course it does come with ONE free game, Missile Command. Quite extensive control options are also included for each game in the app, with ‘trainer’ options in the system as well, all able to be customised to your satisfaction!
I have to admit with some games, using Tempest (one of my favourite of the Atari Arcade games) as an example, the controls are quite finicky on the touch screen. However, when using the iCade, the controls are at first quite sensitive, but once you adjust the sensitivity in the app, then the games are fine! The rubber pads on the bottom hold the entire device down quite steadily as well, so if you want to get freaky on the joystick, it won’t move around much on the desk, if at all.
For curiosities sake, I did try other games on my iPad such as: the ZX Spectrum Collection, Galaga 30th Anniversary, Tetris, and Forget.Me.Not. None of them worked. Fret not though folks, because ION Audio are offering SDKs for iOS developers to make games out there more compatible to the iCade. I personally hope it takes off, and that more companies will use the initiative to utilise this device more, as it really does have potential. Or, if you have a ‘jailbroken’ iPad, you could probably find a MAME equivalent, and perhaps programme it? I’m speculating here of course (I also saw a video on YouTube where a bloke played Sunset Riders on the iCade).
To be perfectly honest, I can’t think of anything negative to say about this device. Nope. Although, there isn’t much in the market that supports it (YET). Perhaps hardware-wise, one irk I have with it, is that there’s no way to charge the iPad whilst it’s sitting in the iCade. I’d find that to be a very handy feature (and a more novelty replacement for my flimsy $7 dock from dealextreme).
With that said, I was very excited to order and finally own the iCade, and it came all the way from the U.S to Australia so promptly as well! I ordered it on Tuesday, and it arrived Monday morning. Thinkgeek have some great gear there, but be careful of the shipping costs (however, it’s not so bad considering how quickly it arrived). If you have an iPad, and have a craving to play some Arcade games in the comfort of your own home or workplace, I highly recommend the iCade.