I received my iCade Jr today and have been having fun messing around with it this evening. You probably know what the iCade Jr is but for those of you who don’t – it’s a device for turning your iPhone/iPod into a desktop arcade machine complete with arcade style joystick and buttons. It’s bigger brother (which I’ll refer to as Snr) is for use with the iPad and it the best iPad addon you could ever wish for…in fact, go buy one now
Now I say they’re designed for Apple iOS devices but iCade supported Android apps are now becoming quite common place and as I’ve had success using a friends Android tablet on my iCade Snr, I would have thought that if it’ll physically fit the iCade Jr it should work just as well.
The Jr is a very similar in design to the larger iCade and it’s nice to see the front buttons in a classic diamond shape as opposed to ION’s other game controller the 8-Bitty.
My side art differs somewhat to that on the box (which sorta resembles iCade Snr). Kinda cool though in it’s black and blue paint job.
What I didn’t expect was to find four more buttons on the rear panel bringing the total number of buttons to eight. The rear buttons are great when holding the iCade in both hands i.e like a handheld console, especially on those games that only need buttons instead of joystick control. This also has the advantage of giving a clear view of the screen. Also, being out of the way, these rear buttons are also useful to remap in Mame as ‘Start’ and ‘Coin’ etc, leaving the four front buttons for your ingame action buttons.
Size wise, the iCade Jr is designed to fit the iPhone 4/iPod but there’s a little bit of room either side if your Android phone is slightly wider or you have a hard case wrapped around your iPhone. I measured the inside width to be 6.5cm.
Still plenty of room even with my iPhone case fitted.
Height wise, it will fit the iPhone 4 with a few mm clearance so if your device is 11.8mm or less it’ll fit and you’ll be able to close the little plastic lid at the top of the iCade. If your phone is taller you’ll have to leave the lid open but that’s no big deal as it won’t affect gameplay. Here’s Mrs StiGGy’s iPhone 5 which is way taller than my iPhone 4 but as you can see, it still fits pretty well.
The iCade Jr is battery operated (no mains jack option like iCade Snr) and uses Bluetooth to connect to your device. Batteries (x2 AA) were included with mine, and they just slot into the compartment underneath the iCade after removing the battery compartment door.
Pairing to your device is a simple process, just hold down the red/white buttons at the front of the unit for a few seconds until the red light just below these is lit. It should now auto pair – no need to to enter a unique button combination like pairing the iCade Snr.
Incidentally, there’s no on/off button as such. If no control is used for a short period, the unit powers off automatically.
There’s also a hole in the bottom of the case that allows you to thread your charging cable and connect it to your phone so that you can recharge and play at the same time. This fits the iPhone charging cable (USB end) although I found it a bit snug and had to give it some welly to get it to fit through the hole.
Oh and another thing, the red joystick ball top unscrews and can be removed leaving behind a four directional thumb pad if you prefer that style of controller instead.
I’ve tried the iCade Jnr with iMame and it worked pretty, although I really did struggled to remap the buttons to use the front four buttons as by default the app uses the rear buttons instead. After much messing around I found that if you go into the Mame control settings (global) and clear whatever button configuration defaults first then it will allow you to remap. If you simply try to change an existing map to something else, it doesn’t work. A bit strange really and i didn’t experience anything like this on the iCade Snr but once you’ve got them set the way you like them, you shouldn’t have to change them again.
iMame – Aspect Ratio enabled hence the small menu.
Great for vertical games….
and horizontal too.
Sadly, something appears to be amiss with iMame as occasionally whenever I’m using the joystick and a button simultaneously, lets say moving and shooting, it doesn’t always shoot. It’s doesn’t do this it all the time but can be pretty annoying with games like R-Type where you really need to be on the stick and button together. At first I thought either I’ve got a faulty unit or a slightly iffy contact but when i tried it with other iCade supported apps, all appears to work perfectly.
Manomio C64 emulator supports the iCade and works really well in both portrait and full screen landscape. No control issues at all.
I’ve also tried Spectaculator (ZX Spectrum emulator) and the Vectrex emulator and all are work perfectly well, the latter being particularly fun. I’ve also tried a few iOS iCade supporting apps such as Velocispider, Atari Greatest Hits, League of Evil and Mos Speed Run without any fault whatsoever.
All in all, I’m damn happy with it. It a shame iMame has a few controller issues but Mame wasn’t the main reason why I brought it (it’s for project I’ve been musing over but more about that later on).
I probably wouldn’t pay the full retail price of $49.99 for thr Jr, but as I got it on sale for a bargain $9.99 it’s flippin ace. I believe Think Geek now have it listed at $24.99 if you want to take one for a spin.
If you’re thinking about getting one and have any questions, feel free to ask away and I’ll answer as best I can.
edit 18/1/13 Found this interesting forum post this morning re Mame and the front buttons mapping/simultaneous control issue and thought I’d add here.