Does the lack of physical buttons on an iPhone or iPod Touch make your gamer blood boil? There's a way to turn your phone into a button-laden gaming handheld, but I warn you: it isn't pretty.
Ion Audio, maker of the iCade iPad arcade cabinet, have made a phone accessory called the iCade Mobile that initially sounds like a fun idea. Hold that thought, now ask yourself: what would make such a peripheral fun? Such a device should be very small, as elegantly designed as the iPhone itself, and compatible with all your myriad iPhone games.
The iCade Mobile is none of these. The $70 black plastic device is long and heavy, not to mention thick (and expensive). With an iPhone inserted, you have a handheld device that feels as large and long as an Atari Lynx (remember those?).
The iCade Mobile has no analog stick, either: its controls are relegated to a standard directional-pad, four buttons on the right side, and two sets of left/right shoulder buttons, one of them on each side being trigger-shaped. As far as compatibility, you're limited to a hodgepodge group of ever-growing games that work with iCade products -- so, no, this device isn't universal, and won't let you suddenly play Street Fighter flawlessly.
Back when the iCade arcade cabinet was released, half of its undeniable appeal came from its clever design. It's a curiosity: a desktop arcade cabinet isn't necessary, but when it works with old-school retro games, it's fun to show off. The old-fashioned joystick and buttons make sense.
In a handheld form, a D-pad is not sufficient. Unless the iCade Mobile is meant to evoke nostalgic memories of early handheld game systems, most people would expect at least one analog pad -- preferably, two -- to play modern games like shooters. The set of supported iCade games are largely '80s classic arcade games or modern indie games with a retro flair; simple twitch titles. The iCade Mobile works well with these games, although the button construction quality feels cheap, like a knockoff PlayStation controller.