The folks who brought you the iCade for iPad are at CES with more iCade accessories — this time for your iPod Touch and iPhone. Do Ion's iCade Jr and Mobile attachments have enough buttons to do touchscreen gaming the justice it deserves? Maybe, maybe not.
First up is the iCade Jr. At first glance it looks like a miniaturized version of the iPad iCade. It docks an iPod Touch or an iPhone (with a little breathing room) and has a mini joystick and four arcade-style buttons. But flip the iCade Jr over and you'll be amazed to see that there are four more buttons to serve as "triggers," although they don't have the springiness of, say, proper triggers on an Xbox controller. Holding it in my hand, the unit felt light and my thumb was easily able to wobble the joystick.
The demo unit was only a prototype, but expect the final version to include better constructed buttons that are red-colored. It'll cost $50 when it comes out.
Ion's other iCade offering is the iCade Mobile. This one is styled after a traditional controller layout and holds an iPod Touch or iPhone as well. In my hands-on demo, I felt the Mobile was a bit bulky — it certainly elongates my iPhone by a noticeable margin and the D-pad and face buttons felt very stiff. Unfortunately, the trigger buttons were also pretty loose after no doubt taking a hammering from hundreds of others at the show, but the second pair of triggers are depressed to the point they're hard to reach, which is a design concern that can't be pardoned by the crowd.
On the plus side, the middle portion of the Mobile can be twisted for vertical use, which is great for shooters and classic arcade games, which shows some surprising forethought. The Mobile will cost $80.
Both the iCade Jr and Mobile will be out in the spring.
Reps at Ion say that the company is working hard with game developers to add support for both the Mobile and Jr accessories. Ion hopes to have the 200+ games that work with the iCade running on both of the new mini iCades soon.
Both solutions are on the expensive side and I'm not sure if iOS gamers would pay that much for real buttons. If buttons really matter to you, maybe it'd be smarter to just buy an old Game Boy Color or save up for a 3DS or PS Vita. As much as I want peripherals like the Jr and Mobile to fix touchscreen's often-poor controls, they miss the mark by lacking game support.
Maybe when they support hardcore games like GTA III, they'll stand a chance. The pricing could use a few cuts as well.
Via Ion Audio
Post on location in Las Vegas at CES 2012