Wednesday, May 30, 2012

iLove the iCade

Well this was an unexpected surprise! Those who follow my Twitter may have heard me boasting about finding an iCade at a local clothing store for the massively marked down price of $11.99. The iCade is an iPad accessory that allows for near perfect arcade controls to be used with select iPad games. Originally conceived as a Think Geek April Fools joke, the iCade ended up not being as crazy or funny as originally thought. I know when I first saw it I was less laughing and more intrigued by such an accessory. Soon after the prank, a company called Ion approached ThinkGeek and the two worked on making a real life iCade. The final product is pretty close to the original fake version, aside from a few things. The original was said to connect to the iPad's dock, however the final version is actually a bluetooth keyboard that connects wirelessly. The stick movements and putten presses are letter combinations that are read as movements within games that support the device. I tried the iCade in Safari and I ended up reading things like "swefesawgtr".   

While I myself don't have an iPad, I figured best not to pass up on such a deal. Especially when the thing still sells for $99. Never say no to 90% off gaming gear that is this cool. Thankfully for me, my wife has an iPad that her work supplied her with, so I've been able to play games with that. My hope is that she gets so annoyed with me borrowing it, that come Christmas, Santa will bring me an iPad. Perhaps she stumbled upon this page that I inadvertently left up on the computer screen and is seeing this big hint?

Setup is a snap, taking less than ten minutes. The unit is in four main pieces, so you just screw the sides, top and back onto the base and you're all set. The stick and buttons, the most important parts, feel really good. Now I'm not an arcade stick expert, but they feel very legit. No clunky cheap feel. Maybe not up to Hori arcade stick standards, but still very very good. My favorite bit is the power light, which is represented by a glowing 25 cent slot on the front. It doesn't actually take quarters, but its a nice touch.

Thus far I've tried out three games: Frogger Decades, Atari's Greatest Hits and Shogun. Frogger Decades is, flippers down, my favorite of the three. An awesome update to the classic Frogger formula, this thirtieth anniversary game is like the Sonic Generations of the Frogger franchise. It's a lot of fun, and controls amazingly well on the iCade. There is even a power-up that transforms 2011 frogger into 1981 frogger. I've yet to buy Atari's Greatest Hits, but I tried the one free game which is Missile Command. It's not my favorite Atari game, and it was originally meant for a trackball, but it plays well with the stick. I've read that other games in the collection play great with the stick, so come the weekend I'll unlock the 100 games in the app and give them a spin. $9.99 for 100 Atari games isn't a bad deal. Shogun is an indie shmup with the first level being free. It was great fun. Really intense stuff made even better with the stick and buttons. As for games I've yet to try, I've found out that the Midway Arcade app and Pix'n Love Rush are iCade compatible so those are also on the "must try, will probably buy list". 

So while this isn't exactly a review, I can say that the iCade is highly recommended, and that glowing opinion is not due to getting it for such a deal. Even at $99, its a sweet accessory. What I really am loving is that all the games are so dang inexpensive. For $17 you can own over 115 games across five apps, offering up a variety of gameplay. The only real negative is that more devs need to support the iCade. Fingers crossed the upcoming Redux: Dark Matters supports the accessory with their iOS version, and SEGA eventually brings iOS some arcade games with iCade support.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sonic 4 Episode II for Mobile Devices Dated and Priced

While the console versions of Sonic 4 Episode II have been priced and dated for quite a while, SEGA has just now given a date and price for the mobile versions. Surprisingly, they're coming a lot sooner than expected and are a bit cheaper than Episode I initially was! SEGA Blog revealed that the game will hit NVidia Tegra 3 powered devices on Android tomorrow and prices will be $6.99/ AUD$7.49/€5.49/ £4.99. As for iOS, the game arrives on Thursday at that same price point. Compared to Episode I, which released in 2010, Episode II is $3 less at release. Episode I, meanwhile, has dropped to $3.99 and this drop appears to be permanent. So for $11, newcomers can own Episodes I and II plus Episode Metal.

Expect an iOS review from myself on SEGAbits sometime next week.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

All-Stars Racing iOS Updates and I Upgrade to the iPhone 4

Yup, I've sold out and joined the cult of the iPhone. For years I've had an iPod Touch, and I enjoyed it, but lately I've felt in the dust thanks to Apple stopping software updates on the first gen model, which I have. Thankfully, the iPhone 4 allows me to play all the apps I could dream of playing. So I've started playing Samurai Bloodshow, which I'll review soon over at SEGAbits, and I've started playing Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing which was playable on the iPod Touch but not at the ideal frame rate.

And just in time for my upgrade comes an update to All-Stars Racing! The update adds: Knuckles and Shadow as playable racers, a new track – Samba de Amigo’s mountainside Sun Fair track, a new home screen icon, Airplay-out mode, HDMI-out mode, iCloud saving, character faces on the minimap (originally racers were shown as anonymous red dots, now you’ll see that Beat is trailing you), Game Center profile pics on the minimap in multiplayer and many other improvements and bug fixes. I’ve explored the game some and found another unmentioned update, the ability to buy SEGA miles via in-app purchases. Very clever way to get a bit of money out of customers, SEGA. It should be noted that Knuckles, Shadow and the new track need to be purchased with SEGA miles. They are not unlocked once you update the app.

My next intended purchase: A Nintendo 3DS. That way I'll have the retro covered (my Nomad, Game Gear and Game Park Caanoo) and the modern covered (iOS and 3DS). Sorry Vita, maybe next year. I'm not made of money.