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Atari Arcade for iPad -Docking With the Past

Updated on October 3, 2015

“Blast from the Past” is a phrase that may seem a bit overused, but in the case of the Duo-powered Atari Arcade for iPad, the description is perfectly suitable. It’s a docking system that melds the past with the present by providing you a way to go back and play those classic 1980’s Atari games on your iPad; and, it’s a blast!

At a cost of about $60.00, the Atari Arcade is an oval shaped plastic dock in white with striking red trim, designed for 1-2 players. Ergonomically designed for comfort, it has a red, globular joystick and 4 black buttons set into the dock to control the action. You can secure the dock to your iPad with adjustable slide locks on either side so that you don’t have to worry about a flying iPad when you really get into your game. It also has four rubber grips on the bottom, so it won’t slide around when you’re playing on a flat surface (but if you want to set it on your lap, that’s also workable). Once you connect your iPad1 or iPad2 to the dock, the screen is vertical, just like those old arcade games, and you’re ready to get into it.

The Atari Arcade dock doesn’t require its own power source; it uses the iPad itself for power and, surprisingly, isn’t much of a drain on the iPads’s power level. The downside to this is that you can’t play while you’re charging your iPad, but if you start with a full charge, you’ll have plenty of time for lots of game action. Another disappointing factor is that the dock won’t fit into the iPad’s carrying case.

It’s easy to get started playing your old favorites: first, download the Atari’s Greatest Hits app from the app store, then just plug your iPad into the device. It may take a little coaxing to make the connection between the iPad and the 30-pin connector, but once it’s established, it’s secure. Your iPad will automatically recognize your new setup, and you can immediately begin to play the free game that comes with the dock, Missile Command. Getting more games will cost $1.00 for a four-game set, or $10.00 for all 25 sets.

Some of the games available from Atari’s Greatest Hits app include Battlezone, Black Widow, Centipede, Crystal Castles, Gravitar, Liberator, Lunar Lander, Major Havoc, Millipede, Missile Command, Pong, Red Baron, Space Duel, Super Breakout, Tempest, andWarlords.You can also get such Atari 2600 games asBackgammon, BlackJack, Bowling, Casino, Codebreaker, Golf, Hangman, Home Run, Math Gran Prix, Chess, Pinball, and others.

The menu and interface have an attractive appearance, and it’s very easy to get around. You have a choice of searching alphabetically to find a game, or scrolling through the 3D images evocative of the original arcade cubicles. Depending on the game you’re playing, you may be using 50-90 percent of the upper part of the screen; that’s so that your hands won’t block your vision as you play.

All games are also touch-screen enabled, allowing devoted gamers to play on the go. While this may seem to be a little counterintuitive to the original intent of the arcade spirit, it turns out that some games actually have better response on the touchscreen, as the joy stick tends to be a little too jerky for games that require a high degree of precision. For everything else, the controls have pretty good accuracy.

Most people who have tried the Atari Arcade Dock are delighted with it, but there are a few aspects that people wish could be better. For some, the light weight of the dock makes it seem a little insubstantial, and they worry about staying power. Others say that the game is a little noisy with all its springs and ticks and crunches, but they may not have a clear memory of what those 80’s arcades sounded like. The choice of games is another issue: each set of four has one game that people really want, while the other three games are complements to or spinoffs of the popular game. While some games have the potential for being replayed indefinitely, others will probably be ignored or disposed of.

When you consider that many of the same games are available online, or can be downloaded from a third party, you might wonder if you really need to spend the $60.00 for the dock, and then pay some more to get games you mostly won’t use. But for those who want to rediscover the arcade experience of the past or introduce it to someone who wasn’t even there, it rates right there at the top of the blast factor.


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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      That sounds great. Thank you for introducing them.