iCade Jr: arcade fun for your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad

iCadejrSince getting the iPhone 4 a few months back, I’ve managed to get a few accessories for it, either through purchase or gifts.  One of them really brings out the kid in you: the iCade Jr.  iCade, for those who do not know, is a mini arcade cabinet sized for the iPad. It has a real joystick (that would look at home in an actual arcade cabinet) and four buttons arranged in a diamond pattern. The device uses bluetooth, so it could really work with any bluetooth enabled tablet.

iCade Jr. is the same as iCade, only sized for the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and 4s. Or, actually, ANY similarly sized and shaped, bluetooth enabled device. (The iPod Touch works as well.)

Of course, the games themselves need to be compatible with the device and, sadly, most are not. There is a list of compatible games on the iCade Jr. web site.

I have purchased the Activision Atari Collection ($4.95 in the app store) and it works like a charm. The ability to play Pitfall, as it would have been on the Atari VCS, on my phone is pretty damned cool.  The collection also includes games from Imagic as well (Atlantis, anyone?)

Even though the device is diminutive, it really does ‘feel’ like the real thing…in miniature. I find that it has to be played on a table top and not one’s lap, not a big deal, but limits its portability. Some of the games need to be played with the phone rotated, so having phone sit sideways on the device is kind of a let down, but, once in the game, you really don’t care.

The biggest disappointment, however, is also a big plus: it is NOT a dock and has NO physical connection to the phone. There is, however, a slide through for your charging/data cable, so it does make a cool ‘dock’ to charge the phone.  This, by the way, also makes it more universal.

At it’s current sales price of $9.99 at thinkgeek.com, you could buy to use just as a cool charging station for your device.  I’m guessing, though, that there are games on the Android side that will work with the iCade.

One caveat: while the iCade should work great with the iPhone 5, the top may not shut all the way since the iPhone 5 is taller.

Lastly, since the device IS bluetooth, you can ALSO USE THE DEVICE with the iPad. So…prop up that iPad and use the iCade Jr. as a controller as well. And, for under ten bucks, it’s a rather cool controller.

iCade and iCade Jr. are from ION Audio and can be purchased from retailers like Target, BJ’s Warehouse and thinkgeek.com.

You can find a list of compatible iOS games here.

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Call of Duty Elite: rip off or massive deal? Depends

Activision. A great name in gaming. An early ‘third party’ game developer, Activision developed an entire genre…the platformer…with Pitfall!. Indeed, this company pioneered or popularized many different genre’s and games.  It’s most successful, though, is Call of Duty.

Call of Duty has endured and, through time, has had many great and not so great games.  Recent editions, however, have sort of staled. Oh, there are minor differences and a few enhancements in the last two games.  Unfortunately, Activision didn’t actually develop them. It’s subsidiary Infinity Ward did Modern Warfare, Modern Warfare 2 and parts of Modern Warfare 3.  Black Ops was done, mostly, by Treyarch. Try as you may, though, the games suffer from a sameness that Activision seems to want to acknowledge and set right.

The answer is Elite.  Elite is a service that started with MW3 that provides, among other things, enhanced stat tracking, and the ability to look at said stats from a multitude of devices.  Elite has a free and a paid version.  The paid version, which costs fifty dollars (US) give additional perks like clan management and a ‘season of exclusive downloadable content’ such as map packs. They promise nine months of the DLC.  Elite members get the DLC weeks or months before ‘normal’ users.  Most map packs are in the $15 range and they said three to four such packs would be released, so $50 seems like a good deal. Right?

Not so fast.

If only one person in your household plays the game, then, yes, awesome deal. BUUUUT…..

If, like me, you have two more people (or more) in your household who also like the game, well, you best be ponying up Fifty bucks per person because those map packs ONLY work with paid memberships. Yep. They are not CONSOLE oriented like the other map packs, no, they are PER USER.

I made the mistake of purchasing Elite, thinking that the new maps that came out a few days ago, would be made available for all users.  I remember reading that early on. They would be CONSOLE tied, not user tied. Well, guess what? They are tied to the USER.

Of course, I was not going to spend another $100 in addition to the $50 I had paid for Elite and the $60 that the game cost.  $210 is quite a bit of money for a shoot them up game. Hell, it is a lot for any game.

So, unhappy with the situation, I attempted to contact Activision. I found NO phone number on their web site and, seemingly, no other good way to contact them.  I finally found a support page on FACEBOOK!  So, I posted my complaint and, surprisingly, got a response fairly quickly.  I was told that  I would need to contact MICROSOFT for a refund since I bought Elite from XBOX Live Marketplace. 

Well, calling Microsoft would have meant a forty five minute wait on the phone but I could get help immediately if I used the online chat. So, I did.  I got some dude named ‘Marc’.  He was very helpful and, in fact, did refund the full fifty dollars plus gave me a one month XBOX Live Gold Membership. He apologized for the inconvenience and that was that. 

Not so quite, though. Back on Facebook, the Activision rep responded again and was sort of sympathetic. They said that Activision was aware of my situation (I’m guessing they got LOTS of complaints) and were going to address it. Not only that, my complaint was being forwarded to the appropriate departments.  So, maybe they will offer a ‘family’ membership option. As long as it is reasonably priced, I would probably buy it.  Reasonable being up to twenty dollars more. 

At any rate, be sure you know exactly what you are getting into before purchasing such memberships.

And, Activision? You won’t have my loyalty again unless you fix this.  I used to think you all were the best. No longer.  You aren’t any better than EA.

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