The iCade Arcade Cabinet started out as just another April Fool’s joke from ThinkGeek, but it soon received so much fan feedback that it was actually put into production. ThinkGeek partnered with Ion to make this dream come to life, and it’s become a huge hit. Most sites had the unit backordered for weeks almost immediately after it hit the internet store in April. The cabinet is priced at $100, and it transforms your iPad or iPad 2 into the classic arcade game you’ve been dreaming of for years. I was lucky enough to catch one of these babies, and now it’s time for the review.
The iCade comes disassembled in its box, complete with instructions and all the parts you’ll need to put this bad boy together. It’s basically five different parts that you simply screw together in a certain order, and viola, you’ve got a sweet cabinet almost ready to go. Just throw in two AAA batteries, and the cabinet is put together and ready for use.
The buttons are thick and mechanical, so they make a loud clicking noise when you use them. Depending on what title you choose to play (as there is an Atari app meant just for this cabinet), you’ll be hitting those buttons a lot which can get annoying. For this we recommend headphones. One issue I had with the cabinet’s design is the top of the joystick. Once assembled, it didn’t look like the top of the stick was set right, and it felt loose every time I played. I tried tightening it, but it would just stay the same. Aside from gluing it, I don’t think you can fix this.
Next is connecting your iPad, which is something I’ll discuss further.
The iCade connects to your iPad via Bluetooth, and you’ll use the joystick and buttons as a means to input a connection password to link the two. After you get your iPad paired with the cabinet you can use th ebuttons or joystick to wake the tablet up and get right to gaming. Keep in mind that the iCade is meant to work specifically with the iPad, so no other devices will work with it (at least to our knowledge).
Though there are eight buttons, you’ll only be using one-to-five of them during your playtime (at least with the Atari games anyway, as no other apps seemed to work with this specific unit). This is, of course, except for when you enter your Bluetooth password, which may be the main reason why there are so many buttons. The button layout varies with each game, but when using the Atari app you can pause the game and see a layout map of each button.
Back to the joystick, it’s not as smooth as most arcade gamers would expect, but it did just fine. It’s clearly got four mapped directions instead of operating on an axis, but it performs just the way it needs to. Honestly, for a $100 gimmick that started as a joke, it’s not bad.
When you take into account that the iCade was never supposed to actually hit production, it performs extremely well and makes for a lot of fun to be had. The $100 price tag may be a bit steep for an iPad accessory, but as a way of reclaiming the arcade glory days of the past, it works out well. The battery life is impressive, and you’ll find yourself playing for hours. The bottom line – it’s a perfect accessory to own for hardcore gamers, and iPad enthusiasts alike. I urge you to pick up one for yourselves, if they are available.