When we first reviewed the iCade controller, the biggest problem was that it only worked with one game: Atari’s Greatest Hits. Now, the list of compatible games has grown, but only a handful are actually worth buying and playing extensively on an iCade cabinet or the new iCade Mobile. Here’s our review of the iCade Mobile, along with our picks for the best games to justify buying either of these pricey accessories.
With its eight-inch frame, the $70 iCade Mobile is technically portable, but hardly compact. When you insert an iPhone or iPod Touch into the rubber cradle, it can feel like you’re playing on a long, skinny PSP.
Like last year’s iCade cabinet, you have to set up the iCade Mobile like a Bluetooth keyboard. Unlike the iCade cabinet, though, the iCade Mobile doesn’t require any assembly, besides unscrewing the back panel to put in two AA batteries. Once the batteries are in, you have to hold the top buttons to sync to your iOS device, and then enter a passcode using the various buttons to confirm the sync.
The games that work best with the iCade Mobile are horizontally oriented, don’t require keyboard input, and offer lots of levels or replay value. And since the iCade Mobile doesn’t have to stay put like the iCade cabinet, you can tilt the entire contraption from side-to-side for any tilt-based games.
Metal Slug 3
If you’ve never played a Metal Slug game before, this is the one to start with. In this run-and-gun shooter series, you have to guide a commando through enemy territory. Sometimes the enemies are human soldiers, and other times, they’re giant crabs or spewing zombies. Not only does this game have excellent graphics and animation with a nostalgic retro appeal, but it also makes great use of the iCade. With the iCade or iCade Mobile, the controls will disappear off the screen, and every trigger pull or grenade launch occurs immediately after you press the buttons. Plus, another player can join in with Bluetooth multiplayer co-op. This classic game is now at the very top of our iCade list.
One of our favorite iOS games is still Hard Lines, an elaborate version of Snake with lots of different gameplay modes. We’re happy to report that it’s even better on the iCade Mobile. Using the iCade Mobile’s joystick controls means you can keep your fingers off the screen, giving you a full view of all the competing, trash-talking lines. Tapping on the physical d-pad creates an instant response, allowing us to get far more precise with our movement than we could before.
Pix’n Love Rush DX
Another iOS classic, Pix’n Love Rush is a retro-inspired platformer that benefits greatly from the iCade Mobile. The game rewards precise movement and shooting, and the online leaderboards are extremely competitive, so the iCade Mobile is great for giving you a slight edge. With every satisfying “clack” of the buttons, our little monster/cat hit his marks perfectly. The only downside is that you’ll be unable to change your name on the title menu with the iCade connected. Since your device thinks the iCade is a keyboard, Pix’n Love Rush DX won’t show the touchscreen keyboard unless you disconnect the iCade. Also, be sure to buy the universal DX version– the regular Pix’n Love Rush doesn’t have iCade support.
League of Evil 1 and 2
The League of Evil games are challenging, old-school platformers, where double-jumps and wall-jumps are required on practically every level. It helps to have a physical controller in your hands to perform these moves, and the iCade Mobile feels very responsive. Each League of Evil game also has a whole lot of levels, which means you won’t feel bored as quickly as you might with some repetitive high-score games that are also iCade compatible.
Super Mega Worm
Speaking of repetitive high-score games, Super Mega Worm is probably the one most closely associated with the iCade Mobile (it’s featured right there on the box). You have to control the mega worm Wojira as he eats cows, cop cars, and panicked civilians. We vastly preferred the iCade’s D-pad to the onscreen controls, and not covering up the action means we were able to survive longer and improve our high score.
Read our review
To complete your heavenly retro gaming setup, just play Stardash, an iOS game that looks like it belongs on a 1989 Gameboy, on the iCade Mobile. This platformer has multiple objectives for each level, and a sepia-toned graphical style. It also controls extremely well with a physical joystick. If you enjoy Stardash, some of Orange Pixel’s other games like Inc and Meganoid are also iCade-compatible.
The seven games listed above may be our favorites, but you might enjoy some of these iCade-compatible titles as well. Download Temple Run and Baby Monkey (Going Backwards on a Pig) if you enjoy high-score auto-runners, or Kung Fu Rabbit, Terra Noctis, and Paper Monsters for more great platforming action. For arcade-style gameplay, download Velocispider and Namco Arcade.
As much as we enjoy the handful of iOS games that work with the iCade, the full potential of this device still isn’t being met. There are so many classic arcade and console games originally designed for physical controllers that you can download on the App Store, but you won’t find iCade support for almost any of them.
We would like to see much more support from big game companies like Sega (who have released dozens of Genesis games, and several new games like Sonic 4, that would be a perfect fit for the iCade). Capcom has brought their arcade fighter Marvel vs Capcom 2 to iOS, but not the iCade, and EA could at least make arcade ports like Tetris, NBA Jam, and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 iCade compatible.
Not every iOS game has to support the iCade– many games are based solely on tilt and touch controls– but we want to see much more than just the hundred or so games that currently make use of this technology. Perhaps Apple has to build iCade support into Game Center or the next iOS update, so more developers will include it. With only a fraction of the App Store’s hundreds of thousands of games supporting the iCade, the bottom line is that this still isn’t an accessory we think iOS gamers need to own.