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Review: Ion iCade Mobile – An Affordable Classic Gamepad for iPhone and iPod touch!

Review: Ion iCade Mobile – An Affordable Classic Gamepad for iPhone and iPod touch!

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*** Giveaway – Scroll to the bottom for a chance to win an iCade Mobile of your own!

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The original iCade arcade cabinet for iPad (review) was a magical device – the first of its kind, allowing users to play classic games otherwise lost in time, and enjoy a real arcade-like experience while doing it. While at CES 2012 in January, I noticed that the iCade now has a little brother: The iCade Mobile.

Overview

Like the original iCade, the iCade Mobile allows you to use traditional buttons and gaming controls to play a variety of classic (and modern, in some cases) games. But where the original iCade was designed for the iPad, the iCade Mobile was designed with iPhone and iPod touch users in mind, transforming your device into a Sony PSP-like mobile gaming powerhouse!

Design / Durability

The iCade Mobile is incredibly visually appealing, featuring design aspects similar to the iPhone itself, sporting a black exterior with silver/chrome trim. It just can’t be denied (at least in my eyes) that this is one gorgeous piece of gaming hardware.

In terms of  size and shape, the iCade Mobile closely resembles the feel of the Sony PSP. The device is also extremely light, which is generally a good thing. Unfortunately, in this case, the build quality suffers somewhat as a result. The iCade Mobile is far less rugged and durable than I’d hoped, and in fact feels somewhat flimsy, especially when gripping the controller tightly during high-intensity gaming.

Despite its lack of durability, the buttons (4 action buttons, a D-pad, and four shoulder buttons) are firm against the fingers, while remaining easy to press, and avoiding that “mushy” feeling that low-budget game controllers are often known for. It also does a great job of nestling the iPhone in a secure silicon holster, which rests in the center of the device.

The iCade Mobile is powered by two AA batteries, which makes it ideal for longer gaming sessions. Unfortunately, the way the iCade Mobile cradles the iPhone counteracts the benefit of replaceable batteries. The silicon iPhone and iPod touch cradle blocks access to the 30-pin connector, making it impossible to recharge the iPhone while gaming. It also blocks the volume buttons, making it difficult to adjust your volume depending on your gaming environment.

Depending on which game you choose, this could significantly reduce the duration of your gaming sessions. I would find the design much more appealing if the device connected with the iPhone’s 30-pin connector, and featured a rechargeable battery that could power both the controller and the iPhone, and which could be used while plugged in via micro-USB in order to extend play time in a pinch.

Gameplay/Comfort

While the iCade Mobile does have some design concerns, and is certainly not perfect, it does have several redeeming factors. The iCade Mobile offers an exceptional gameplay experience, and is designed for maximum comfort. I found myself able to comfortable use the device for several hours at a time without significant fatigue. It feels great, matches the contours of your hand, and offers nearly ideal button action.

Another notable plus to the iCade Mobile is compatibility – it works with any game that supports the original iCade, including the well loved iMame emulator that was rejected from the App Store (although you can still get it on a jailbroken device). Right out of the box, it can be used with hundreds of available App Store titles (any game supported by the original iCade, click here for a full list)!

While the gameplay of the iCade Mobile is generally good, there are a few cases where things don’t always work well. Some games that were specifically designed for the original iCade use control schemes that make them difficult to play with the iCade Mobile – perhaps building two or even three “controller modes” into the iCade API could help counter this.

Another issue I encountered (although it should be noted that this is certainly nor the fault of Ion or the iCade Mobile), is that some iPad games support the iCade, while their iPhone and iPod touch counterparts lack iCade support.

Verdict [rating:3.5]

Although the iCade Mobile does have a few flaws and areas for improvement, it does provide a fantastic gameplay experience overall, and is a great way to bring a hefty dose of retro to the iOS gaming experience. For those who understand and accept its flaws, the iCade is a fun and relatively affordable way to take your iPhone gaming to the next level.

The iCade Mobile is available now on store shelves (such as GameStop/EB Games stores in the U.S.), and is priced at $79.99 MSRP. It is commonly available for the street price of $59.99, however, and can be purchased from Amazon for $62.50 with free shipping. For more information, check out the iCade Mobile product page.

Pros

  • Extremely easy to set up and use.
  • Compatible with a large base of games.
  • Attractive iPhone-like design.
  • Very comfortable to use, even for long periods.
  • Relatively affordable ($60-70, average).

Cons

  • Does not work with iPhones in cases.
  • Lack of rechargeable battery can be frustrating.
  • iPhone cradle blocks volume buttons, mute switch, and 30-pin connector.
  • Build quality feels somewhat cheap.

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Giveaway

The iCade Mobile offers a great classic gaming experience on your iPhone and iPod touch. It’s ergonomic, it’s lightweight, and it brings that retro feel to many of your favorite apps! But don’t take my word for it – I want to give you a chance to try an iCade Mobile for yourself!

To enter the giveaway, just be a follower of MacTrast and post the following from your Twitter account:

Enter to win an @IonAudio iCade Mobile from MacTrast! Details: http://mctr.st/OG1Sev #MTiCade

The giveaway begins immediately, and will remain open until 8:00 AM MT on Thursday morning (July 12), shortly after which I will randomly draw a winner. The prize can be shipped anywhere in the world, so don’t be shy – tweet it up and be in with a chance to win!

Good luck!

WINNER!

Big congratulations to @damienstarr, who will receive a free iCade Mobile from MacTrast and Ion Audio!

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