Ion Audio iCade review: Ion Audio iCade

For now, the iCade's biggest flaw is that it only works with a single iOS app, the Atari iPad app, which offers 100 classic arcade and home console games for $15 (or individual game packs for 99 cents). One hundred games for $15 may sound like a great deal, but keep in mind that many of these are variations on a theme: Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, etc. And, since these are Atari games, you won't find arcade classics such as Pac-Man, even though that game has its own iOS app (and seems to be an obvious choice for an iCade compatibility update).

There's a cheat sheet under the top panel to help you with Bluetooth tethering.

Connecting the iCade (powered by two AA batteries) was a breeze; select the iCade from the Bluetooth devices menu on the iPad and enter a series of joystick and button-presses to make the connection (Bluetooth-tethering instructions are printed on the underside of the hinged top panel). From there, you still have to manually launch the Atari app and navigate to your favorite games, but once in an individual game, the controls worked well in games such as Missile Command and Battlezone. Because the eight physical buttons are unlabeled, a cheat sheet is included showing the button mapping for some of the more popular Atari games.

Using the iCade as a game controller works best with games designed to work with a joystick, but many of the games in the Atari app were originally controlled with a track ball, such as Centipede and Crystal Castles. Your mileage may vary on how frustrating it is to use a joystick instead. Ion Audio recently released a software development kit which would allow any iOS game developer to add iCade support to their games. We have yet to see any new iCade games or updates to existing games, but that would definitely make the iCade much less of a one-trick pony.

Despite its limitations, the iCade is a fantastically eye-catching conversation starter, and very fun to use once you find a handful of Atari games that work for you. For vintage gaming enthusiasts, it may be an expensive novelty, but a very worthwhile one.

What you'll pay

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