What was the first video game you ever laid eyes on? I’ve gotta admit, I go all the way back to Pong, which I first spotted in a burger joint in the early ’70s. It was this almost unreal thing, a truly interactive (though we didn’t know that word) visual game on a TV screen. If your first game was a denizen of the arcade rather than the living room, the iCade, available now from ThinkGeek, will be a time machine for you, taking you back to a time when a pocketful of quarters was an afternoon full of promise.
Originally a ThinkGeek April Fool’s prank, this item, like others before it, was too good to just stay a joke. Cali and John featured it from CES earlier this year, and now it’s available for all of us to relive those memories of dark arcades at the mall. It’s a wood and plastic housing for an iPad, that contains a package of controls (eight buttons and a joystick), and a Bluetooth transceiver through which it communicates with your tablet. For fun, there’s even a light up (non-functioning) coin slot on the front, which flashes during the Bluetooth pairing process. The cabinet requires some minor assembly (sides, back and top have to be attached to the electronics package). If you’ve ever built something simple from IKEA, you’ll do fine. Game play depends on the Atari’s Greatest Hits app, which is free and comes with one game, Missile Command. Other games are bundled in 4-game, 99-cent in-app purchases, or you can buy the whole 99-game package for $14.99 (recommended if you already sprang the $99.99 for the iCade). One of the major criticisms from purchasers of the app is that the (on-screen) controls can be difficult to use. The iCade takes care of that, providing a very intuitive control system, that will completely take you back to your old arcade moves.
Think Geek offered these for pre-order a while back, and they blew through their initial stock rapidly. But they’re now in stock again and ready to ship. Is it worth the $115 to get an iCade fully outfitted with all available games? For me, that’s not even a question. Playing these games with original-styled controls is a blast. If you’ve got fond memories of ray-traced graphics like the ones in Battlezone and Tempest, I think you’ll find it a worthy investment.