Dec 18 2011
iControlpad and your cell phone
In this second edition of Retro Gaming in the Modern Era, I want to discuss portable gaming. When we were kids, it seemed we had tons of time on our hands for gaming, but as we become adults and have responsibilities for our work and family lives, its harder and harder to just relax in front of a console hooked to a TV. Too often we must rely on handhelds to get game time when we are out and about. This leaves a few options. Of course we could try to drag out a retro or modern handheld, from the bulky early Game Boy, Lynx, and Game Gear to something more modern like a Game Boy Advance SP or one of the DS iterations, but its much more convenient if the games are on a device we already have on us, such as a cell phone. Its even possible to play retro games on our phones purchased through the numerous app marketplaces, such as the Atari Great Hits app, X-Men Arcade, R-Type, and more have been made available. Or you can even download an emulator and enjoy game ROMS of classic titles. However, the interface has always been a problem. Touchscreens do not adapt well for retro game controls, and unless you own an Xperia Play phone, chances are that your phone doesn't have tactile controls. However, they can be added.
The iControlpad, as seen with an iPhone 4
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Above is the iControlpad, a Bluetooth controller which can be used with iPods, iPads, iPhones, and Android phones and tablets. Thhis beauty has a couple of ways to mount devices to it, turning any phone into a portable game console. iPods need to be jailbroken for most emulators to be installed (although some of the games in the App Market natively support it as well, as it can be used just like an iCade).
Now, the price of admission is not cheap. Just the bare controller with the rubber sides runs $55 dollars before shipping, and I usually recommend ordering a complete package with both the universal mounting clamp and the mounting sides, which runs $70 dollars. Add in shipping from the UK at around $25 dollars and you end up with a pricey controller for us on the United States side of the pond. However, its well worth it. The controls are made by the same people that are behind the Pandora handheld, which means they are very responsive and very comfortable. And unlike the Pandora, there's no pre-order or line for the iControlpad, its readily available.
The back, showing the Universal Mount and the rear shoulder buttons
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Of course, what's a controller and a phone without software? Jailbroken iOS devices share the best of both worlds, as any app that supports the iCade, such as Ataris Greatest Hits, also supports the iControlpad since both controllers share the same bluetooth interface mode. However, the emulators that support the controller are fantastic. A person known as rakashazi has programmed numerous emulators that natively support iControlpads for both iOS and Android. So far he has released emulators for the NES, PC Engine, SNES, Mega Drive (which includes Master System supprt), Game Boy Color, Neo-Geo pocket, and Atari 2600. In addition, Android users can also enjoy native support for the iControlpad in fPSE, a Playstation 1 emulator. The controller is not even a year old yet but there's a wealth of emulators that ensure you can enjoy using it with a variety of emulated systems for a long time to come. You can see rakashazis homepage, featuring information on all the emulators he has released, at www.explusalpha.com.
So now we have a quality portable gaming that mounts to our phones, there is no longer any excuse not to enjoy old favorites on breaks at work, when travelling, or even on the can. Its a quality product I highly recommend for anyone looking to enjoy old school games on the go, and a great addition to any Android phone or jailbroken iPod.
click to embiggen