While the annual Consumer Electronics Show has plenty of vendors whose entire show is dedicated to gaming, I always like stopping by the booths of folks that continue to offer a few pieces of high-quality gaming products that are not what the company is actually known for. Case in point is Ion Audio, who in the past has introduced such gaming items as the Drum Rocker several years ago as well as the iCade and Go Pad at last year’s 2011 CES
. This year, Ion surprised us with a whole suite of iCade products. In addition to the original iCade
, this year there was a new and improved iCade Core
, iCade Jr
and the iCade Mobile
While the original iCade actually sold well, it was a bit big and bulky and had to be assembled by the consumer. So the feedback that Ion received from their retail partners and customers led them to develop the iCade Core. The Core is an almost exact replica of a traditional fight stick, with a joystick and eight buttons, but it has a cradle and cable pass through to hold and charge your iPad. Like the original iCade, it connects via Bluetooth and is compatible with over 200 games, including the Atari Greatest Hits app. The Core is actually weighted well and feels pretty rugged. However, you probably don’t want to go too hardcore with it, as the delicate iPad is sitting in it while you are playing.
The iCade Mobile is the one that really caught my eye. I have seen a few of these devices before (including Ion’s own Go Pad last year) that allow you to convert your iOS device into a more traditional handheld gaming product. My one complaint since I have had an iPod touch has been that I spend too much time trying to use the right touch control, that I am less focused on the game itself. Devices like the iCade mobile solve that by bringing back traditional touch controls and allowing you to see the entire screen. For the iCade Mobile, it sports a decent D-Pad, four button array and four trigger buttons that any handheld gamer can appreciate. The iOS device can actually be locked into either a vertical or horizontal position, so no matter which way the game is oriented you will be all set. As of today, there are over 100 games that will work and connect via Bluetooth to the iCade Mobile, and that number is slated to grow even more. After holding it, you can tell it is balanced nicely to support the iOS device and the placement of the D-Pad and eight buttons feels like you just picked up a PSP again. It is a bit wider than a traditional handheld, but I do not believe this will be detrimental to the gameplay. With the iCade mobile, I think Ion has finally found that perfect blend of size and functionality to convert any iPhone or iPod Touch to the traditional size and function of a gaming handheld.
The last of the new iCade products was the iCade Jr. this little guy is designed for iPhones and iPod touches and is meant to be a miniature replica of the original iCade. Although it doesn’t sport the same amount of buttons, it is made of durable plastic and allows you to play vertical games (think Galaga) the way they were meant to without fumbling through those touch screen controls. It will work perfectly in a table-top setting, and should be ok for use (maybe a bit awkward) just holding it in your hands.
Pricing and availability were not announced, but expect the three new entries in the iCade (Core, Mobile and Jr.) product line to hit normal Ion Audio retail channels later in 2012.