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Atari Arcade brings retro joystick gaming back on iPad

posted Sep 8, 2011, 6:32 PM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Sep 8, 2011, 6:37 PM ] has a review of the Atari Arcade, a joystick that plugs into the iPad.  Or, more accurately, that the iPad plugs into.  Here are some highlights:

While all eyes are on Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft to deliver the next-generation of gaming in portable and console form, one old-time friend is making a silent return. Atari is partnering with DiscoveryBay Games to launch the Atari Arcade — an iPad dock that enhances old-school arcade classics with the tactility of a joystick and four physical buttons.

Right off the bat, you're probably thinking the Atari Arcade is an iCade knock-off. It certainly seems so at a glance; the Atari Arcade is the second joystick dock for the iPad, but the similarities pretty much end there.

The iCade is a mini arcade cabinet that connects to an iPad via Bluetooth and houses the tablet. The Atari Arcade, instead, connects via the 30-pin dock, which allows it to be more than a tablet holder. Once docked, either generation of the iPad can be locked securely in place with two switches, and then you're ready to play.

The 30-pin dock connection gives the Atari Arcade another advantage over the iCade: the joystick is powered entirely by the iPad, no batteries required, and no battery-chugging Bluetooth. With the Atari Arcade, we got anywhere between 8-10 hours, which is within the iPad's normal battery life.

As of right now, the only iPad app the Atari Arcade is compatible with is Atari's Greatest Hits — a free app that comes with Missile Command, though if you want anything else you have to pony up.

That said, the selection offered isn't going to blow anybody away, except for those looking for a nostalgic trip through classic Atari 2600 games, or grown up golden-era gamers looking to introduce Super Breakout to their kids, who only know what's on today's PlayStations and Xboxes.

Games can be purchased within the app at $1 for a set of four, or you can buy the entire bundle of 100 Atari 2600 games for $15. We poked around with a few of the games and while we'd love to recommend springing for the full 100 games, we can't — even at $15. Most of the games like 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, Golf and Home Run are pretty bland and generic — hardly offering much replay value.

We really like what DiscoveryBay and Atari are trying to do here with bringing us back to that arcade feeling of wobbling a joystick around and tapping buttons with fingers, but we can't help but feel the Atari Arcade is a huge missed opportunity to give modern day games the retro control treatment.