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The iCade began life as an April Fool’s joke, but the real-life miniature arcade cabinet that followed proved anything but a gag, delivering a Bluetooth controller that blended function with ample nostalgia. Following the original unit’s success, ION Audio is back with a pair of new control options for iOS devices.
The iCade Core is essentially a stripped-down iCade, swapping the old-school arcade cabinet aesthetic for a more versatile plastic base. Rather than slide the portrait-oriented iPad into a sizable shell, the iCade Core accommodates the tablet in either orientation, and it simply sits within the provided slot, which has an opening for an optional dock connector. Like the iCade, the Core easily connects via Bluetooth--within moments, you’ll be ready to go with any supported game.
The iCade Core scores, but...
While the buttons make a slightly grating springy sound, it’s tolerable in the wake of having a sturdy arcade stick base. Sadly, though the supported apps list has expanded to dozens of titles over the last year, many games that need the iCade the most--like fighting games--lack support. So while iCade Core is still a niche accessory for hardcore users, it’s a solid and much more portable alternative to the standard iCade.
Meanwhile, the iCade Mobile attempts to transform an iPhone or iPod touch into a traditional handheld game system, including eight buttons, a directional pad, and speakers. The Bluetooth peripheral is built around one very smart idea: the ability to rotate and lock your device in landscape or portrait orientation.
... the iCade Mobile needs a restart.
But iCade Mobile falls short in a handful of ways. The flimsy d-pad only responds to very fervent presses, removing any level of subtlety to your movements. The rubberized, rotatable shell makes it difficult to adjust the sound on the phone, which is important, since the iCade Mobile lacks its own volume control. The assembly also feels cheap, with sharp plastic edges exposed when your device is in portrait view. And despite the billing, the bulky add-on is hardly a pocket-sized offering.
It’s not a total loss, though--games like Velocispider and Gunman Clive play better with real buttons--but the list of compatible titles is even slimmer on the Mobile than on the other iCade devices. Even a universal app like Super Crate Box is oddly compatible only with the bigger iCades and not the Mobile. With few games warranting the investment and weaker build quality than the iPad versions, the iCade Mobile is a tough sell.
The bottom line. While the iCade Core delivers a more versatile arcade stick option for the iPad, the iCade Mobile suffers from its cheap, bulky feel and unresponsive D-pad.
Pros: Supports portrait and landscape orientations. Solid base with stick and eight buttons.
Cons: List of supported titles still lacking. Buttons are very loud.
Requirements: iPhone or iPod touch
Pros: Brings physical controls to iPhone and iPod touch. Rotating cradle is slick idea.
Cons: Flimsy and unresponsive d-pad. Cheap and bulky feel. No volume control on unit.