iCade review (iPad / Hardware)

October 25, 2011

“You can keep the color TV, those soaps just make me sick
All I’m asking you leave me is my little red joystick”

10 word description: Mini arcade cabinet for iPad. 8 buttons & joystick. Bluetooth.

This is what it looks like before you put it together...

10 word review: Solid, well made, decent looking, yet arguably a novelty item.

... and this is how you put it together

You will like this if you enjoy: Playing iPad retro arcade games on traditional hardware joystick and buttons rather than using touch-screen controls. Having a rather geeky conversation piece on your coffee table.

The good news: For anyone who desperately wants a fully functional miniature arcade cabinet for their iPad, this is probably the simplest way to get your hands on one. The cabinet material, although nothing spectacular, feels solid and sturdy while you’re assembling the iCade and proves to be heavy enough to prevent the cabinet wobbling and rocking when in use. Bluetooth connection setup worked first time for me, no problem with that at all. Playing most of the supported games, Asteroids being a great example, on hardware buttons is a definite improvement over any touch screen control configuration. When using the iCade, the normal on-screen controls (for touch screen) are not displayed (not a feature of all games), which improves the visual appeal of the games. Packaging and assembly instructions are good. Batteries are included. Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, you can use the iPad in landscape mode on the iCade, thanks to the channel cut into the top of the sloping control surface – just about visible in the picture above (Earlier models may not have had this landscape mode channel, I’m not 100% sure about that).

The joystick is a bit high, as demonstrated here by someone probably very important

The bad news: The number of games with iCade support is still small, but steadily growing. Joystick and buttons are not the highest quality available; joystick has a deadzone in every direction before registering movement; buttons are very ‘clicky’, requiring slightly more pressure to activate than I would prefer. The joystick seems a little too high for me; a shorter stick would be more comfortable. A couple of the screws that hold the cabinet together persistently cross-threaded despite several attempts to line them up and encourage them to go in straight during assembly. Button clicks are rather loud, amplified by the cabinet. Even when using earphones they are distinctly audible and can become annoying for people nearby who are doing something of vital importance like trying to watch X-Factor. Although there’s a DC input, there’s no mains power supply included, possibly due to the multiple configurations necessary for international sales.

Sorry the photo quality is rubbish, it's taken on my iPod Touch in poor lighting. This shows Mos Speedrun (landscape), perfectly slotted into the iCade's little iPad gutter.

Arcadelife verdict: First of all, much of what is listed under “bad news” is fairly trivial and only there because I’ve tried to test the iCade extensively and provide as much of a balanced review as possible. The joystick height is a matter of personal taste. After playing several games, I started to think it might be ok. It isn’t, but playing iPad arcade games on a joystick and buttons is a lot of fun; enough to make me forget the height of the joystick. Here’s a list of the games I’ve played on the iCade for this review:

Asteroids (Atari Greatest Hits)
Centipede (Atari Greatest Hits)
Millipede (Atari Greatest Hits)
Goat Up
League of Evil
Minotaur Rescue
Minotron 2112
Mos Speedrun
Muffin Knight
Super Mega Worm

The majority of those games play much better on joystick/buttons than using touch screen controls. Asteroids (using just buttons), League of Evil, Velocispider and Muffin Knight are hugely enjoyable on the iCade. Overall, minor quibbles aside, and if the price doesn’t scare you away, the iCade is definitely a novelty item for gaming geeks, bit it’s also pretty good at what it does and gives an added dimension to some of the best iPad arcade games currently available.

Arcadelife rating: 85/100

ION iCade website link
iCade – compatible games list website link 
Arcadelife played and reviewed iCade with:
iPad (OS 5.0)

One comment

  1. Glad you liked it 🙂

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