Category Archives: icade

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Pac-Man for iPad.

Yellow ornaments hang from the tree in today’s The 12 Video Games of Christmas.  Wait, that one is eating the tinsel!  Darn you, Pac-Man!

Made by Namco and selling for $4.99 in the App Store, this round of Pac-Man is for the iPad only. It definitely feels like the arcade game, and has some good options for controlling our yellow hero.  Using the virtual joystick feels a bit logey, but an option to move Pac around the maze by swiping your finger to make him turn feels surprisingly responsive.  What’s really neat, however, is the accelerometer control scheme, where you tilt the iPad to move the character, kind of rolling him around the maze like in a marble-roll game such as Labyrinth.  It feels pretty cool and physical, although not particularly precise.  All of these control methods come included with the free Lite version; if you want to really get the arcade controller experience by hooking the game up to the mini-arcade cabinet iCade, you’ll need to pay for the full version of the app.

Another interesting addition to the formula is the ability to continue your game where you left off after losing your last man, by spending Namco coins, which, of course, you can purchase with real cash.  This particular freemium endeavour is not so obnoxious as others you find in the app store, as you get an awful lot of the program in the free version.

Pac-Man for iPad can be gobbled up at the iTunes App Store. Bon appétit!

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: iCade

The arcade in your home!

Our entry today in The 12 Video Games of Christmas comes in its own beautiful wooden box:  the iCade.

This squat and sturdy mini-arcade cabinet started life as an April Fool’s Day prank in 2010, part of a tradition at the ThinkGeek website that also spawned the tauntaun sleeping bag.  As the iCade joke post went viral, however, response for a real device was so strong that ThinkGeek teamed up with ION Audio to actually produce it.  ION Audio is the consumer brand of Numark Industries, makers of professional DJ equipment.  Also partnering with the project was Atari, and their classic game app Atari’s Greatest Hits was the sole compatible game program with the iCade’s launch on June 27, 2001.
As stated, the iCade is solidly built, a wooden cabinet into which one slides any generation of iPad.  The two devices connect via Bluetooth, after which compatible apps will display the iCade as a controller.  Since launch, the list of supported apps has been growing, including Midway Arcade and the recently released Vectrex Regeneration.  The iCade’s joystick is professional grade, although its action could be a bit tighter.  The buttons, all eight of them, are rock solid and have a real arcade feel.  Overall, the iCade goes a long way to mitigating the control problems you generally find playing classic games on mobile devices.
The cabinet is available from ThinkGeek and various retailers, usually selling for $99.99.  Currently, however, ThinkGeek has them on sale for $69.99.  Recently ION has released the iCade Jr., a similar device for the iPhone, but I think this is delving a little bit into the ridiculous.  It is a bit cheaper, however, going for $49.99.  
Buy the retrogamer in your life an iCade, and you are truly giving them the gift of the arcade.

Have You Played Atari On iOS Today?

Atari and Vancouver developer Code Mystics have dropped a metric tonne of retro joy onto the Apple App Store with Atari’s Greatest Hits, for iOS devices. The app allows you to play up to 100 classic Atari games; a few of their most famous arcade entries, but the majority of games come from the catalog of games released for the VCS/2600 home console. Only a small sampling of games are available for free, with 4-pack game downloads available for .99 cents, or you can get the whole 100 game enchilada for 15 bucks.

The app is universal, and I’d recommend playing it on the iPad, as the arcade games feature a representation of the original screen bezel, which shrinks down the playfield a bit too much on the iPhone. The games offer both landscape and profile mode, but not every one has that option to switch. The control methods on offer vary as well, and some work decidedly better than others. On the whole, however, I find the sliding controls that invariably represent dials or trackballs to be too sluggish, and their speed is not configurable. This definitely needs to be addressed by a patch to make these games workable. As for joysticks, the small virtual button that stands in for the stick is small, and I find my thumb constantly sliding off of it, or worse: pressing a different direction or multiple directions as once, deadly for games like Asteroids that put different, drastic actions like thrust or hyperspace on the up and down joystick positions.  Classic video game emulation is often slagged for missing that intrinsic satisfaction that comes from holding a joystick in your hand while playing. Since precise control is sometimes the only thing going for these games, in particular those for the VCS/2600, the sluggishness on offer here is pretty close to a deal-breaker.

Sometimes the controls work, however, as evidenced by the sliders that control the paddles in PONG.  But if you really want to capture that arcade feeling, the iCADE, set for release in June, will scratch that itch.  Originally a clever 2010 April Fool’s joke perpetrated by Think Geek, intense user demand has actually made the crazy idea reality.  Greatest Hits has support for the iCADE built right in, and makers ION will be releasing an API that will allow other games to support the mini-cabinet.

Even without the iCADE, however, Greatest Hits is a wonderful app for classic video game aficionados.  They will also be jazzed about the extras that come with some games, such as game artwork, scanned colour manuals, and more.  Some, however, are concerned that the package is infringing on iTune rules about apps downloading and running external code, represented by the ROM code downloaded in the game packs in order to play these classic gems.  A double-standard does seem to have been set with the acceptance of Atari’s Greatest Hits into the app store.  So perhaps games looking for a little nostalgia had better grab this baby fast.