Halfbot’s The Blocks Cometh has been given one big final update making it universal, adding iCade support, and 5 new characters from all across the world of iOS gaming.
Yes, iPad support has finally come to this game. The game also supports the Retina Display, so while there may not be added definition to those pixels, they will look crisp without the scaling interpolation that iOS usually adds to non-Retina games. The iCade support even makes the game feel exactly like the old-school arcade game it was destined to be. Don’t worry, iCade Mobile users, as there’s support for that too.
Velocispider‘s eponymous araknasaur is a playable character, climbing blocks with the ability to shoot ones directly above it, though blocks to the side can’t be shot! 1-bit Ninja‘s ninja makes an appearance, though it can thankfully move both left and right. Even the editors of Touch Arcade make appearances in the game, because when the sky is falling, there’s no one you want on your side more than a bunch of app bloggers!
As someone who’s played lots of iOS games and by extension sampled lots of virtual control schemes, external control attachments such as the iCade intrigue me. Tapping the screen is fine and all, but sometimes having physical buttons to press can make a world of difference. Lots of other people seem to think so, too, which aeis why these kinds of peripherals have a place in the market. It’s all well and good for portable play, but what about when I’m at home? Sure AirPlay allows users to game on their TV, but the iOS device is still the primary control. Which is exactly why we have brilliant entrepreneurs like the folks at Cascadia Games (the creators of Cavorite) creating stuff like the GameDock.
The GameDock will essentially be an iOS console, with all the awesomeness that implies. Users simply have to plug their iPhone or iPad into the dock, which is in-turn connected to the TV via an HDMI cable, and start playing any iCade supported titles on the big small screen. The handy dashboard app allows users to select their desired game via the connected controller, so they don’t even have to get off the couch. And just in case anyone wants to use the GameDock but doesn’t have a TV (or at least one with HDMI inputs), everything can be played right on the connected iOS device.
Cascadia Games’ Kickstarter for this most glorious of add-ons is just past the halfway mark for its $50,000 goal. With 35 days to go, there’s plenty of room for more backers. Come on, you know this is an awesome idea.
Developer: Ion Audio
Price: $89.99 MSRP
Hardware Tested On: iPad 2
Re-use Value Rating:
ION Audio has refreshed the original iCade as the iCade Core, acting as a more compact version of the original controller. Functionally, it’s identical; the buttons feel slightly softer compared to the original iCade, but hardware-wise, it is identical and has the same compatibility.
The benefit to the iCade Core is that it I just so much more portable and versatile. Want to play on the couch with the iCade in the lap? Go for it. It’s also much better for playing on a TV via HDMI. Also? There’s no assembly required.
The drawback is of course that it just does not look as cool without the arcade cabinet. The iPad stand does have some room to slide around in the space carved out for it, so having a case might be a good safety mechanism. As well, one of the things I would like to see would be at least a key combination to call up the software keyboard, because until it idles out or Bluetooth is manually turned off, the iCade Core will take over keyboard input.
Bottom line, I must say that while both systems are functionally identical, the iCade Core’s increased portability and practicality makes it a superior option to the classic iCade for iPad owners, unless of course the original arcade-cabinet style is being used as a decoration somewhere.
Developer: Ion Audio
Price: $69.99 MSRP
Hardware Tested On: iPod touch 4
Re-use Value Rating:
One of the new iCade models that ION Audio is putting out is the iPhone and iPod touch version of the iCade, the iCade Mobile. The controller repurposes the iCade’s joystick into a d-pad, the left 4 buttons into face buttons, and the right 4 buttons into shoulder buttons. The controller is overall about as wide as the iPad’s screen without the bezel. It fits both the iPhone and iPod touch, though it isn’t wide enough to fit even a thin case. All device keys and buttons (except for the home button) become inaccessible due to the hardware design. The holder can be spun around to be viewable in both landscape and portrait though.
The important thing to understand is that the iCade Mobile is technically the same as the iCade, so developers do not need to add specific support for their games to make the iCade Mobile work. Two issues that pop up though are that first, some games do not have iCade enabled on the iPhone side despite supporting it on the iPad, such as Super Crate Box.
Second, games that have chosen non-protocol uses for the buttons have odd control schemes on the iCade Mobile. For example, Mystery of the Japanese Werewolf, a fun platformer that has iCade support, has controls configured for the original iCade where the right 6 buttons alternate between jump and attack, and the red buttons on the left column are pause. On the iCade Mobile, this means that the bottom and left buttons are pause, and the top and right face buttons are jump and attack respectively. These issues are ones that will need to be addressed by developers via simple configuration tweaks.
The iCade Mobile succeeds not in that it makes the iPhone into an arcade machine, but that it makes it into a capable handheld system. It feels like now I’m playing some lost Game Boy Advance games, especially in landscape mode. The d-pad and buttons work very well for platforming and action games, especially the kinds of retro games that beg for controllers. While it’s a wide controller, it’s still ergonomic. The controller handily still turns off after a few minutes of inactivity, and it actually has a dedicated on/off switch.
The inaccessible hardware buttons would be a problem solved by the addition of Bluetooth system keys like the ones on Bluetooth keyboards. This would make it possible to adjust volume, and call up the soft keyboard. The latter functionality would be perfect for downloading more iCade-compatible games.
That’s the great thing about the iCade: it’s become the de facto standard for external controllers with a wide array of support. There are more games coming on a regular basis with iCade compatibility. Heck, this could even be used as a controller for an iPad. This is definitely the iOS external controller to get.
I can’t count the number of times I have had the iCade – the retrofied arcade control cabinet with a real eight-point joystick and eight real buttons – in a physical or virtual shopping cart and put it back because the compatible games list just didn’t warrant the hundred dollar investment. Well, I’m still holding out for Ms. Pac Man, but thanks to Warner Bros Interactive, the next time I’m squandering money and tempted by the flashback accessory, I just may keep it. Why? Because Midway Arcade, with it’s catalog of killer classic games like Joust, Spy Hunter, Defender and a true favortie of mine, RootBeer Tapper, is now iCade compatible too.
The app was already treat for anyone who spent hours and rolls of quarters in arcades as a kid. Players wander through a virtual showroom with classic cabinet games – all played in portrait mode which is ideal for the original iCade with the groovy casing. There are also four table top games including air hockey and pool and even a juke box to complete the late 70’s -early 80’s vibe. In fact, Midway is my favorite of all the classic collections on iOS because of its immersive design. But like Atari’s Greatest Hits, the first iCade compatible classics collection, these iconic titles just beg for physical controls. Now they have them.
On top of the generous content that comes with the $.99 download, Midway Arcade offers two $.99 in-app purchases to unlock fantasy and action three-game packs. Midway Arcade’s realistic setting is ideally suited to the iCade’s original design, but of course the app also works with the newer iCade models like the iCade Core as well.
Carter speaks to Tunde Olatunji, one of the developers of The Battle of the Wordsmiths to discuss the game, its origins in Yoruba artwork, and the ambitious plans he has for the game and its overarching universe.
Carter speaks to Derek Doucett of Ravenous Games about League of Evil 2, discussing the new art style, supporting old devices, and the challenges faced by the new iCade models that are coming out.
Remember April Fool’s day 2010? ThinkGeek showcased a retro-fied iPad cabinet, complete with 70’s Mork-suspender’s striping as a gag. Well, the laugh was short-lived, as the product took hold and became a top seller. At CES 2012, as we reported, ION AUDIO, who make the real product, announced a new line-up of iOS gear including a line of streamlined iPad controllers with the same arcade style 8-point joystick and 8 buttons, and for the small iOS screens, a controller-case that most resembles the PSP.
But, as 148apps writer Jenifer Allen pointed out in her coverage of the Gametel Controller: There’s “no use [for add-on controllers] without good software support.”
Like many, I’ve been holding out for one very special arcade classic that screams joystick like no other: NAMCO BANDAI’s PAC-MAN for iPad. Actually I’m lying, I really want Ms PAC-MAN, which if the product shot from ION’s press release is any indication is coming soon, but I’ll more likely consider ponying up for just the little male yellow chomper. And now he and his ghostly nemeses are officially iCade compatible.
In the press release Fred Galpern, Brand Manager, at ION says. “It’s thrilling to add Pac-Man to the list of iCADE compatible games … adding this beloved classic is truly exciting.” Thrilling may be overstatement, but if this signals a general alliance with NAMCO BANDAI, and other old-school gamehouses, the exuberance on ION’s part, and mine, is well founded.
It is that magic time of the year where electronics manufacturers trot out their prize show ponies at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show. Aside from being the first big trade show of the year, it is also used as an opportunity for companies to debut their new products. After the standout success of ION Audio’s iCade, at last year’s show, it only seemed like a matter of time before we were treated to their next innovative takes on the peripheral.
Today they were proud to announce that they have not one, but THREE new additions to the iCade line, two of which are aimed at making better use of your more portable iOS devices. Here is the full rundown of what you can expect to see in 2012:
If it wasn’t obvious from simply eyeballing it, this is a miniaturized version of the original iCade cabinet that started it all. Featuring a fully articulated joystick, the device also has four front facing buttons as well as four that are around the back of the cabinet’s assembly. Why exactly are there four buttons around back? Who knows, but you can bet that the first person to figure it out could stand to make quite a bit of money from the App Store. Meant to nestle a iPod Touch or iPhone inside, this is perfect for the arcade junkie on the go.
Just in case you couldn’t tell from the image above, this next re-envisioning of the iCade brand retrofits an iPhone or iPod Touch into something that more resembles the form factor of Sony’s early iterations on the PlayStation Portable. What it lacks in joystick it makes up for in a D-pad, which could be either a really good or really bad thing, depending upon the quality of the materials used to construct the device. Based purely upon the image above there also appears to be some sort of ergonomic hand grips behind the molding of the chassis, which should hopefully ease the wrist strain that has previously been associated with gaming on the smaller iOS hardware.
Remember everything that you liked about the iCade? Well what if we told you that you could have the same functionality, without having to haul around that gigantic cabinet everywhere? The iCade Core will attempt to do this by removing the exterior case assembly and focus on keeping the form factor to a minimum. Simply put, all of the core mechanical pieces of the previous monolith have been shrunk down to fit into a glorified joysick arcade pad. In the back of the station is a grove and docking station where gamers can securely dock their iPad and get back adventuring down retro gaming memory lane.
These all look like great additions to the already outstanding iCade family. What could be coming next an even smaller model for your iPod Nano? We sure hope not, but only time will tell…
Carter and indie musician Jaden Walker (composer of The Portable Podcast theme song) discuss a variety of topics in the land of iOS, from AT&T data caps, the iCADE, card games, and asynchronous multiplayer games.
Chaotic Box’s excellent frantic grid-based arena survival game has come to the iPad, as Silverfish MAX. The game has been optimized for the iPad’s resolution; this isn’t a windowed 960×640 game like other iPhone/iPod touch ports to the iPad, Silverfish MAX uses the full screen. This also allows the detail of the graphics to shine through in a way that even the Retina Display does not allow. The additional real estate of the iPad screen means that there’s plenty of room for the swipe-based controls to work without obscuring the action at all. The d-pad based control scheme is still available as well. The game otherwise features the same content as the regular version of Silverfish, including the Haste mode added in an update, where the POW bar decreases rapidly, but Power Pods fill the bar up instantly. However, the most notable feature in Silverfish MAX is support for iCade controls. Game Center leaderboards and achievements are included, of course. Silverfish MAX is available now from the App Store.
When it comes to iOS gaming, the biggest complaint that continues to come up is the lack of physical controls. While veteran iOS gamers have gotten used to virtual controls, games still often suffer from not having actual physical buttons and joysticks to use. While an iOS device that actually has physical gameplay buttons on it is unlikely to ever appear, some people and manufacturers are looking to provide physical controls to gamers on touchscreen devices, either by facsimile physical joysticks, or through external accessories to provide actual physical controls to games.
First up is the Fling Joystick from Ten One Design. Designed to simulate an analog joystick on a touch screen, primarily the iPad (it appears to be designed for the wider bezel of the iPad, and might not work as well on the iPhone and iPod touch), that you stick on the iPad screen, and works to simulate a physical controller’s analog joystick. The product claims to leave no residue on the iPad, and to increase your accuracy in games that simulate analog joysticks. You can buy both a single Fling joystick, or buy a 2-pack for dual-stick shooters. The joysticks appear to be designed for iPad-only games, but some games running in 2X mode appear to work, such as Secret of Mana, according to the publicly-edited compatibility list. Some games may not work as well due to the way their joysticks work or how they’re positioned, so it may be a bit of a crapshoot depending on the games you want to play. The Fling is available now, and it will run you $19.99 for a single unit, and $29.99 for a pair.
A second virtual joystick option is the JOYSTICK-IT, exclusively from ThinkGeek. It appears to work similarly to the Fling, simulating a joystick on a touch screen, but it has a different design, more similar to an arcade joystick than a controller thumbpad. However, it still appears to work as an analog joystick for 3D games and dual-stick shooters – it would be curious to see a joystick work to simulate a digital joystick, if it was at all possible. While the JOYSTICk-IT is more expensive than the Fling, running $24.99 for one and $39.99 for a set of two, the shape could be preferable for some people, and give a more arcade-like experience.
Also coming from ThinkGeek and ION Audio is the iCADE. This was originally a joke product from ThinkGeek on April Fool’s Day, but similar to products like the Tauntaun sleeping bag going from joke to real product, the iCADE is soon to be real as well. This lets you dock the iPad into a miniature arcade cabinet, that features an arcade-style joystick and 8 buttons, for any various configuration of games. The iCade connects to the iPad via Bluetooth, and claims to offer support via an API for other apps to support it. iCADE will support Asteroids and other Atari arcade games at launch, though. It will be interesting to see how Apple reacts to a device like this, and if it’s allowed, although external game controllers have been theoretically allowable since iOS 3.0, as long as they’re Apple-approved devices, but no company has gotten on releasing one. There’s theoretically no reason why a Bluetooth controller shouldn’t be allowed, as a dock accessory would have to work through its own API as well. The iCADE is still in development, and is “Coming Soon” – but here’s hoping for April 1st just for the sake of irony.
However, most of these control options are designed for the iPad and other tablet devices – for gamers on the iPhone and iPod touch, their physical control options are more limited. One of the most intriguing physical control options for these smaller devices is the iControlPad from Craig Rothwell, who has worked on the Open Pandora handheld. This device communicates over Bluetooth, and offers support with a variety of different protocols, though it will work as a Bluetooth keyboard in its most basic mode, with the d-pad, 4 face buttons, and 2 rear buttons each mapped to a keyboard keypress. The iControlPad isn’t just a gamepad either – it has a built-in 1350 mAh battery that supports a generic USB output so you can charge a variety of phones and devices with it. iControlPad is also future-proof, as it uses a clamp system to support a variety of phones – including iPhone and iPod touch sized devices, and smaller Android phones. A larger clamp set is in the works to support larger phones like the Samsung Galaxy S line.
Unfortunately, the iControlPad might be of limited use for non-jailbroken iOS users. According to Craig Rothwell, one of the designers of the iControlPad, the odds that Apple would allow support for the profiles that support the analog joysticks are low, though if apps can use keyboard input as game commands, the iControlPad could be supported through that. Considering that a device like the iCADE exists and offers similar Bluetooth control, there is a chance that games could actually support it in the legitimate App Store, if Apple approved it, though Craig Rothwell has said before that Apple would not approve apps that support the iControlPad’s API. He and the rest of the iControlPad team have been in touch with some iOS developers about implementing the iControlPad into their apps, though these would likely be jailbroken-only apps. Android apps are more in luck; due to the OS’s less restrictive policies, many apps already support Bluetooth gamepads, and so they would be able to easily support the iControlPad. The iControlPad is currently in production, and the first batch of units should be shipping out in the next month.
It will be interesting to see if any of these devices catch on in any meaningful way, or if they’ll just be devices for gaming enthusiasts looking to simulate the feel of gaming controls on their touch screen devices in any way. As some of these devices start to ship out to customers and as new controller solutions are potentially announced, we’ll have the latest news and impressions of these devices.
Well, it was a long, strange, Vegas-y week for us here at 148Apps. We took to the Las Vegas Convention Center to check out all the latest gadgets and apps that we could stand. Here’s our roundup of the best, the worst, and the just plain WTF of the whole conference.
Best of CES
iCade: iPad Arcade Cabinet
We were so excited by this thing turning out to be real, we dropped a post on it right away. It does indeed look to be real, and has many a geek excited. Starting out as a April Fool’s joke on Think Geek, ION Audio picked up the idea and ran with it.
iHome iW1 – Airplay Enabled Rechargeable Home Speaker
If you haven’t been under a rock for the last several years, you’ll have seen iHome speaker docks, for your iPod and iPhone. The latest speaker boast some impressive features, most notably Airplay compatibility and a rechargeable battery, leading to within-network mobility. Imagine playing Slacker Radio or Pandora from your iPhone to a speaker in any room in your house, or, better yet, a speaker you can take with you from room to room while playing from the iPod touch in your pocket? Now THAT’s the future. [iHome]
Dexim iPad Bluetooth Keyboard/Leather Folio Combo Case
This is the one that Engadget posted about – you know, the one with the iPad 2 prototype in it? We were more impressed with the foldable folio-style iPad case with the thin, magnetically attached bluetooth keyboard as part of the unit. Easily removed, as well, for those non-keyboard moments in your travelling life. Slick design abounds here, and we can’t wait to get our little hands on one. [Dexim]
iConnect MIDI to iPad/iPhone
If you’re a musician, you’ll appreciate the fact that while there have been great music creation apps on the iPad and iPhone, but not many ways to use them with hardware controllers like keyboards or drum machines. That could change with iConnect, a new hardware box that utilizes the connector on your iOS device to connect MIDI and USB devices that use the MIDI standard. Hooray for us!
Eton Crank-Charged Emergency Box with USB Power Dump
There you are, in the middle of a natural disaster and the power is out. Your iPhone is dead, and you need to call your Aunt Mary to make sure she’s ok. Never mind that her power is probably out, too, but should you need to charge your various devices on the go, you’ll want one of these hand crank power units from Eton. The pictured model even has a “power dump” feature, so you can build up a charge with the hand crank, then let it do its thing all on its own, so you don’t have to sit there cranking until the wee dark hours of the morning just to play that last ound of Canabalt. Throw in the built in radio, flashlight, and more and you’ve got almost everything you need to survive the next power outage. And yes, that IS in fact Jeff’s handsome hand and iPhone modeling for you.
Sennheiser Digital Noise Canceling Headphones with iPhone Compatibility
Sennheiser is known as a maker of high-end audiophile headphones, and at CES, we found out why. Boasting many different lines of headphones, from Adidas special additions to digital noise canceling headphones with pass through mic systems in place (when you need to hear the stewardess on the plane, for example) and iPhone remote buttons.
Worst of CES
iPhone and iPad Cases
Seriously, folks, how many cases do you actually need? From shiny be-dazzled iPhone cases to every bizarre iPad stand/case/kiosk thing, the one thing that CES had in plenty was cases. Look, we appreciate a well designed case as much as anyone, but do we really need four dozen of each type? Don’t answer that — it was a rhetorical question. Color us sick of iPhone and iPad cases, with only a few notable exceptions.
“iPad Killer” Tablets
This was the year of Android at CES. Everyone and their mother’s brother had a tablet, from tiny little companies to ginormous world-spanning companies, and everyone in between. With the Samsung Galaxy Tab (sweet form factor and solid design) and the Blackberry Playbook (amazing looking OS, but still waiting to see full functionality) at the show, not to mention LG’s offering, it’s hard to want to see any other “budget friendly” tablets. You get what you pay for, folks.
Streaming TV Products
File this under “Things That Do What Airplay Does, Only Less Well and More Kludgy-y Looking.” We saw WAY too many little black or white boxes that will “STREAM TV FROM YOUR SMART PHONE!!!!” We aren’t adding the exclamation points here. Look, electronics makers, Apple already did this, and we don’t need to snap on some poorly made plastic doo-hicky to our “smartphone” in order to do it. Plus, AppleTV just works. Honest.
WTF of CES
We’re still wondering why this product exists. The makers claim that we all need a bluetooth enabled meat temp probe. The only thing we MIGHT concede is that having an app on the iPhone or iPad that tells us how long a given piece of meat will take to be done could be handy. Otherwise…err…huh? We’re men, see, and we burn meats on grills. We don’t need no fancy pants meat probe to tell us when it’s done!
We don’t want our oven to download recipes. Seriously. We can do that with the BILLION APPS DEDICATED TO JUST THAT! We don’t want our refrigerator to send us targeted advertising email, either, thank you very much. Plus we don’t want to have to pay for an extra data plan for our kitchen. There is, however, a Whirlpool Washer/Dryer with an app to tell you when laundry is done. That could be handy, we suppose. Maybe. Like when the huge buzzer sound our dryer makes just isn’t enough.
Ok, we were a bit intrigued with these earbuds that allow multiple magnetic connections for music sharing, even before the hot booth babes with teh “You Wanna Hook Up” T-Shirts and short shorts showed up to demo them. We reserved this WTF special mention for the Director of Communication at the booth, who invited us to a press conference “in 20 minutes” but she didn’t know where it was. Nor could she find out. Neither could we. Marketing Fail, guys.
Did you go to CES? See anything you’d consider the best, the worst, or WTF? Let us know in the comments below!
Ion Audio in association with Atari, today introduced the iCade. An arcade machine look alike tabletop dock with a joystick designed to turn your iPad into an arcade machine.
The product first turned up as an April Fools joke from Thinkgeek. But now it’s real! We’re on the way to check it out and we’ll have full details soon. Until then, here’s a shot to hold you over.
Questions we have include does this work with more than Atari games, and of course how much and when?
Update 1/10: We are back from CES now — getting a connection there was a bit of an issue. So here’s the update.
The iCade will be on sale this quarter for $99. It’s Bluetooth based meaning that any developer that wants to will be able to use the controller. Initially we’ll see classic games from Atari released with support for the iCade. We hope we’ll see a bunch more follow quickly after.
Artist Kyle Lambert created a portrait of actor Morgan Freeman by using Procreate on his iPad Air. Below you can find the video of the entire creation process of the image as the artist uses only his finger to create the portrait.