You may recall our review of ThinkGeek and Ion’s iCade iPad arcade game dock. Not to be outdone the folks at Atari have partnered with Discovery Bay Games to create their own iPad arcade simulator dubed the Arcade Duo-Powered Joystick or Atari Arcade.
The Atari Arcade promises to be all that iCade is at a price point $40 less than ThinkGeek’s iCade. The iCade requires batteries and uses bluetooth to communicate with the iPad where as the Atari Arcade requires no batteries and is powered directly by the iPad and connected via it’s 30-pin dock connector. The joystick like the iCade is designed to work with Atari’s Greatest Hits app.
While the Atari Arcade sells for $60 dollars pposed to the iCade at $99 the differences are readily apparent as soon as you touch the Atari Arcade.
The Atari Arcade looks and feels cheap and plasticky while the iCade looks more robust and like a mini arcade machine. The dock connector on the Atari Arcade fits both iPad and iPad 2 tablets but can be awkward and frustrating to connect (You have to line up the iPad just right to fit it into the dock connector). The iCade of course uses bluetooth connectivity therefore no 30-pin dock alignment issues. On the controls side the Arcade Duo controls feel surprisingly more responsive than the iCade with just the right amount of resistance on the joystick and buttons. The iCade buttons are actual arcade type micro switches which have a concave shape and more tactile feel albeit a slightly looser but true to life real arcade type game response.
Conclusion: Unlike Engadget who picked the Atari Arcade over the iCade, I prefer the iCade over the Atari. Both units have limited support since they work only with the Atari Greatest Hits app for now. Both units are costly, sure the Atari Arcade is $40 cheaper but I’ve see the iCade on sale at BestBuy for as low as $80 bucks so it’s only $20 dollars more than the Atari Arcade and for that minimal cost, the design, esthetics, retro look and genuine arcade buttons of the iCade make it worth the extra. Let’s face it, if you’re going to by this dock/controller part of the reason you’re buying it is the Retro Look and not merely for the joystick or button controls. The iCade hands down looks better than the Atari Arcade. Sitting on the corner of my basement bar counter the iCade looks like a mini retro arcade game while the Atari Arcade looks like a kids toy for a five year old.
If you’re a retro gamer looking for some fun and nostalgia the iCade is both functional as a game controller and a nostalgic piece while the Atari Arcade is well …. just another plastic game controller joystick and nothing more.