The iCade – An arcade cabinet for iPad/iPad2 (Review)

GRACE Yew relives the days when she would throw time and money at video games through the iCade, an arcade cabinet for the iPad. But does the device compare to the real arcade experience? 

Let’s say you’ve finally scrounged together just enough money for a shiny new iPad, and the world of iOS gaming is at your fingertips. Sadly, like everything else in the age of dwindling attention spans, the thrill will soon wear off and you’ll want more. You’ll crave novelty, but secretly yearn for the good old days when you were a brash, young delinquent who spent countless hours and coins at the arcade after school.

The iCade – arcade cabinet for iPad/iPad2 is possibly the thing to satisfy the nostalgia.

The device arrived at the Meld Magazine office in pieces; that is, separate components packed into a little box. All those hours spent assembling Ikea furniture with just an Allen key came in handy as we got the cabinet ready in no time.

iPad Controller Game Pad Joystick

Some Ikea skills required.

The contraption is surprisingly bulky, but equally stable, which was a good thing, considering how violently I handled it. The iPad slots vertically into a small plastic cradle, accessible by flipping up the top of the cabinet. There’s also a little groove for the iPad to sit in horizontally. No AC adapter here, the iCade runs on old-school AA batteries and syncs with the iPad via Bluetooth. It even has a slot for iPad cables to keep the device running when its battery is low.

Activating the iCade was an entertaining experience. I held down five buttons until the cabinet’s coin slot begin flashing, which indicated the iCade was ready for wireless Bluetooth connection. Next in this bizarre activation ritual, I had to move the joystick and press buttons in a specific sequence. Getting it wrong, as I did, caused the sequence to reshuffle. It didn’t take too long, but the whole process felt oddly archaeological, like I was unlocking an ancient vault filled with a king’s ransom.

Oh, and bear in mind that connecting the iPad to the iCade will disable the iPad’s touch-screen keyboard. I didn’t know this initially and punched the cabinet’s plastic buttons in frustration, only to be greeted with a string of gibberish in the text bar.

After installing the free Atari’s Greatest Hits app on the iPad, as per the instructions printed on the iCade, I tried out Missile Command and Pac-Man, and found the cabinet gave me the tactile control needed to play those games on the iPad. Other games that fared well on the iCade include Velocispider, Hungry Master, and Speed Run.

However, do note that not all games are compatible with the accessory.

The iCade delivers on its promise of an authentic arcade experience. But while a fun time-waster, it is also clunky, overpriced (AU$150), and virtually useless outside gaming except as a glorified iPad stand. All in all, the iCade is a highly impractical investment for impoverished students. It’s great for parties though.

We’ve got an iCade – arcade cabinet for iPad/iPad2 worth AU$150 to give away! (iPad not included)

For your chance to win it, simply tell us in the comments section below, your favourite childhood arcade game and why. The reader with the best answer will win the prize so remember to provide your real name and email address so we can get in touch with you.

The competition closes on Thursday, October 18 and is only open to those living, studying, or working in Victoria. The winner will be announced via email on Friday, October 19.

There are 20 comments

  1. Percival Wong

    Best 2 games of all time….. Street Fighter 2 and Golden Axe!
    Spent hours and hours on those games, not to mention hundreds of dollars. My mom was so so furious with me back in those days.
    Back then, Street Fighter 2 was THE game to play. It requires skill and strategy, not to mention lots of time and money to perfect them.
    Fav. character would be Guile.
    Long limbs. Good for close range.
    Sonic Boom. Good for long range.
    Boomerang Kick. Ultimate defence and attack.

    Golden Axe was awesome, too. Love going around collecting the items with super powers. Aim was to complete the whole journey without loosing a single life! Boy, that was hard. Only managed to do it a couple of times. Feeling after that was awesome!

    Anyways, hope I win. Would love to play Street Fighter again, retro style.
    No one has done Golden Axe for the iPad yet, which is a shame.

  2. Fatima Shah

    Frogger – I don’t think there is a more classic arcade game than Frogger from the 80s. Why is it so great? Because I can still play it to this day!

  3. Nancee Biviano

    Galactica – I would steal coins from my Dad’s bedside table to go to the pizza parlor where they had this game, lose my 20c almost immediately and head home again to find more change.

  4. Michelle Warwick

    Space Invaders…our local bowling alley had a faulty one that kept giving your money back after playing. Every single game player knew about it but nobody ever talked about it for fear of it getting fixed. I believe everyone who ever played the game there played so much, they could have been world champions (me included).

  5. Laura C

    I can never go past a classic like Donkey Kong. When we were kids, my brother and I had to spend weekends with our Dad and he would make us go to bowling with him. Oh, we weren’t allowed to bowl, that was just for him and his mates. But it worked for us, because my brother and I would spend the evening eating chips and playing the old arcade games, like Donkey Kong and QBert. (Well, I must admit, they weren’t old games then, they were brand new and amazing!)

  6. Mark Ryan

    Game and Watch – Donkey kong was king – dual screen heaven, parading around the school yard like you have hit the big time, 2 screens of fun for hours, and it even told the time… wow

  7. Kirsten W

    Ms. Pac-Man was my favourite – with the solid color mazes and multiple warp paths, to the little yellow ball love story. Ms Pac-Man also showed that (in my opinion) the female was the superior species, being able to take on more intelligent enemies. And she rocked the red bow.

  8. robert ford

    space invaders i enjoyed the challenge when they came close to the bottom,with the musics fast pace it felt like my heart would skip a beat until i shot it down and the game continued on!

  9. Rae Graham

    It’s just so hard to narrow it down to just one!,I loved Mappy mouse,Crush roller,donkey kong but my favorite was Galaga,it was the only one I could beat my older brother on!

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