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The iCade – An arcade cabinet for iPad/iPad2 (Review)

Grace Yew

Thu Oct 04 2012


GRACE Yew relives the days when she would throw time and money at video games through the iCade, an arcade cabinet for the iPad. But does the device compare to the real arcade experience? 

Let’s say you’ve finally scrounged together just enough money for a shiny new iPad, and the world of iOS gaming is at your fingertips. Sadly, like everything else in the age of dwindling attention spans, the thrill will soon wear off and you’ll want more. You’ll crave novelty, but secretly yearn for the good old days when you were a brash, young delinquent who spent countless hours and coins at the arcade after school.

The iCade – arcade cabinet for iPad/iPad2 is possibly the thing to satisfy the nostalgia.

The device arrived at the Meld Magazine office in pieces; that is, separate components packed into a little box. All those hours spent assembling Ikea furniture with just an Allen key came in handy as we got the cabinet ready in no time.

The contraption is surprisingly bulky, but equally stable, which was a good thing, considering how violently I handled it. The iPad slots vertically into a small plastic cradle, accessible by flipping up the top of the cabinet. There’s also a little groove for the iPad to sit in horizontally. No AC adapter here, the iCade runs on old-school AA batteries and syncs with the iPad via Bluetooth. It even has a slot for iPad cables to keep the device running when its battery is low.

Activating the iCade was an entertaining experience. I held down five buttons until the cabinet’s coin slot begin flashing, which indicated the iCade was ready for wireless Bluetooth connection. Next in this bizarre activation ritual, I had to move the joystick and press buttons in a specific sequence. Getting it wrong, as I did, caused the sequence to reshuffle. It didn’t take too long, but the whole process felt oddly archaeological, like I was unlocking an ancient vault filled with a king’s ransom.

Oh, and bear in mind that connecting the iPad to the iCade will disable the iPad’s touch-screen keyboard. I didn’t know this initially and punched the cabinet’s plastic buttons in frustration, only to be greeted with a string of gibberish in the text bar.

After installing the free Atari’s Greatest Hits app on the iPad, as per the instructions printed on the iCade, I tried out Missile Command and Pac-Man, and found the cabinet gave me the tactile control needed to play those games on the iPad. Other games that fared well on the iCade include Velocispider, Hungry Master, and Speed Run.

However, do note that not all games are compatible with the accessory.

The iCade delivers on its promise of an authentic arcade experience. But while a fun time-waster, it is also clunky, overpriced (AU$150), and virtually useless outside gaming except as a glorified iPad stand. All in all, the iCade is a highly impractical investment for impoverished students. It’s great for parties though.

We’ve got an iCade – arcade cabinet for iPad/iPad2 worth AU$150 to give away! (iPad not included)

For your chance to win it, simply tell us in the comments section below, your favourite childhood arcade game and why. The reader with the best answer will win the prize so remember to provide your real name and email address so we can get in touch with you.

The competition closes on Thursday, October 18 and is only open to those living, studying, or working in Victoria. The winner will be announced via email on Friday, October 19.