iCade 8-Bitty Retro Wireless Game Controller review:

Retro iOS game controller with a handful of quirks

There are drawbacks, though: the 8-Bitty works by tricking your iOS device into thinking it’s a keyboard, but simple button-mappings get laid onto games in ways that sometimes seem random. Super Crate Box makes you use the middle gray buttons on the 8-Bitty that look like old-fashioned Start and Select buttons on an NES controller, but are in fact additional buttons. Sometimes the shoulder buttons and other buttons do the same thing. Sometimes you have to press up on the D-pad to jump, instead of being able to press one of the four comfy red buttons like you’d want to. Most games have no control-tweaking options for the 8-Bitty, so you’re stuck.

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An screwed-on back cover accepts two AAA batteries, and an on/off switch keeps battery drain down. Pairing is easy, although as CNET's Rick Broida pointed out, once you're paired you can't use the iPad's onscreen keyboard anymore. The 8-Bitty is even more portable than the Duo Gamer. It’s more comfortable, too. You can even you use it with your iPhone, though I'm not sure why you would: it's larger than the iPhone 5.

The 8-Bitty is a cute stocking-stuffer, a clever novelty gift, and, depending on your usage, a functional retro-gaming accessory for your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. It’s less expensive than an iCade, and more flexible.

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This isn't the perfect iOS game controller. It's an awkward, feisty little gadget that won me over with charm, not usefulness. It might do the same to you, if you keep your expectations low.

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