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iCade, the iPad or Android tablets best friend

Lifesperience is now Raycommend, which can be found here:  Ray Commend 

Long before the rise of the uber powerful technology of today, I grew up in an era where arcade machines were just about everywhere.  Pac man, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Street Fighter, etc.  Video games were an integral part of my youth.  There was a time where the best graphics and sound were outside of the home in dimly lit places that you had to travel to called arcades where quarters were your best friends as you fed them to arcade machines for just two more rounds against Dhalsim.  While there are still arcades around, most of them tend to be places like Dave & Busters where the games are a few dollars a piece and the games are more like family activities than the arcade games of decades ago.

As home consoles and PC's became more and more powerful, arcades started to die out and go the way of the dinosaurs.  With today's tablet technology and a customized arcade style shell, can the feeling be recreated?  In a word.  Yes.

The iCade started as an april fools joke created by Thinkgeek.   What wasn't funny was that from that joke came thunderous demand from game geeks everywhere to release such a device.   A few months later, Thinkgeek obliged and partnered with ION to release the iCade.  A bluetooth arcade controller with 8 buttons and an arcade stick attached to a solidly built faux wood cabinet.  Please note that when you open the box there will be some assembly required.  Expect to spend at least 15 minutes putting the iCade together depending on how savvy you are with simple tools.  If you are an expert of all things ikea then you will be right at home.

Left side view

The iCade has a solid feel that feels like the machines of old
The bluetooth joystick and buttons are powered by two "AA" batteries

There is also a 5V DC port but no adapter is included for it in the box.

The iCade thoughtfully includes a hidden opening to attach your tablets power cable
These instructions are for the iPad but those savvy in the ways of Android will have no issues pairing the device under Androids own bluetooth settings.
The iCade pairs to your existing iOS or Android tablet via the bluetooth protocol.  Even though it is bluetooth be warned that it is a proprietary keyboard layout, however the iCade provides very clear syncing instructions underneath its top hood as shown in the picture above.

Once synced, there are many games that are compatible as per ION's website.  Fire up your app and depending on the game it may either auto-detect the iCade or you may have to toggle it on in the app settings.

The iCade also has a small indent in front for landscape play.  The charging port is not easily accessible in this mode.
Loading up my copy of iMame (unfortunately pulled from the app store. You'll have to jailbreak to use this app now) I tested some of the classics.  Playing Galaga, Donkey Kong, Street Fighter, Metal Slug, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with a physical stick was great.  The buttons themselves feel just like the old school arcade machines while the joystick felt nice and clicky as you rotate it on its axis.  It's a little loose for my liking but very usable and some may prefer it that way.  After months of use my iCade still looks fairly new and the joystick and buttons look no worse for the wear.

Little details like the light up "coin slot" provide a look of authenticity.
On the Android side of things the Play Store has Mame4droid as a free app with no restrictions.  Physically, most android tablets are widescreen so they may be too tall for the iCade but that does not affect gameplay in the least.  The top of the iCade is adjustable and can be moved out of the way.  Smaller Android tablets like the 8 inch varieties from Samsung should fit just fine.  The HP touchpad that I tested fit perfectly, so if you happen to have one then it will work seamlessly.  If not having a perfect fit is a serious issue to you then there is another version of the iCade that supports most screen sizes.  Be warned that it is not as pretty nor nostalgic looking.

Overall for $99 or less if you do some searching, the nostalgia factor can't be beat.  Touch screen gaming is acceptable but for the old school fanatic nothing can replace the physical feel and response of physical controls.  If you have the room for it, the iCade is an excellent addition to your man/girl cave.

And if worse comes to worst, it makes a great conversation starter when entertaining company.


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