For all the new types of gaming experiences that simply wouldn’t be possible without the iPhone’s multi-touch screen, there are some traditional game modes that just don’t work as well without real, physical buttons. Anyone who’s tried tapping a transparent control panel on the screen of a smartphone platformer, shoot ’em up, or fighting game knows that these half-size touchscreen controls aren’t nearly as satisfying as the physical controllers these genres were intended for . While developers have created alternate touch-based controls for these games with varying results, there’s no substitute for the simple tactile feel of buttons beneath your thumbs.
Enter the iCade Mobile, a Bluetooth-powered plastic case that fits your iPhone (3G or later) or iPod touch (3rd generation or later) in a traditional portable console button layout, complete with a directional pad, four face buttons, and four shoulder buttons. tests. The rubberized black housing in the center of the device provides a snug, secure enclosure for your iDevice that rotates to snap into place in landscape or portrait orientation, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, the case also blocks access to the buttons and ports on the outside of your iDevice, meaning you’ll have to awkwardly remove the system to adjust volume, charge, or shut down.
The first thing you notice when you hold the iCade Mobile is that it… isn’t very mobile. At 8.5 inches wide (even wider than the extra-large PlayStation Vita) and over an inch thick at its deepest point, this is a device only suitable for the deepest of cargo pockets or a hefty wallet. It works fine for bite-sized home gaming when the TV or PC is otherwise busy, but I can’t imagine anyone dragging this beast around to improve the controls of some of their iPhone games.
That said, the iCade Mobile’s size makes it feel very comfortable in adult hands, with a significant weight that feels sturdy but not too heavy (you’ll probably want to remove the phone before holding the whole thing against your body for a while). ear). phone call). The face buttons are a bit on the slick side, but they have a nice bounce to them and don’t click too loudly during gameplay. The directional pad feels a bit loose, but it’s still functional enough even for diagonal inputs. And while the shoulder buttons aren’t incredibly comfortable to use, I didn’t find many games that supported them anyway.
It’s hard to underestimate how much of a difference using these buttons makes in many iPhone games. Play a title like Pix N Rush love or League of Evil basic on-screen controls force you to cover much of the screen real estate with your fat thumbs, and make input a hesitant affair with the risk of pressing the wrong button. However, with the iCade Mobile, it’s easy to roll your thumb from the jump button to the shoot button with ease, or tap a tiny bit in any direction to adjust your position. The improved response times and more confident inputs are incredibly useful in racing games, shoot ’em ups, and old-school arcade throwbacks like Namco Arcade also.
Unfortunately, all of these benefits only apply to the games iCade Mobile supports. The list of compatible games currently contains about 100 titles, ranging in quality from the instant classic to the easily forgettable. But, somewhat bafflingly, the compatibility list doesn’t include some of the universal iOS games that work with the original iPad-sized iCade. Crucial iCade games like Super Crate Box, Cavorite 2, Pac-Manand the Atari’s Greatest Hits app just don’t support the portable version. Other games that should work with iCade Mobile, such as Mid-Arcade And Vertex blasterseemed unresponsive during my testing, and one, the Robotron-esque Minotron 2084had a button mapping error that made it impossible to play with the device.
That’s a shame, because with only a slightly larger library of titles to play, the iCade Mobile might be worth the $70 asking price for a certain type of traditional gamer. As it stands, its bulky form factor and limited selection of quality titles means I can’t really recommend it for most iOS gamers.