iiRcade Review — An In-Home Arcade With An Ever-Growing Library
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The iiRcade is a well-made multicade cabinet with immense promise, but it’s still early in the game.
It’s no secret that arcade cabinets take up considerable space, and many of us don’t have the room required to create our own home arcades. That’s where the iiRcade, a new multicade positioning itself as a jack of all trades, comes in. Rather than focusing on a single arcade classic or publisher, iiRcade has a steadily expanding library of titles that you can purchase and download to the cabinet. It’s an intriguing premise to say the least. With a premium feel and great look, the iiRcade has a ton of potential. Its long-term success will largely depend on its library of games, and while the preloaded games are underwhelming, the storefront is steadily growing to include a wide variety of arcade and console games. If you’re having trouble deciding on an arcade cabinet for your game room, the iiRcade could very well be the right choice for you.
Background and price
Last year, the iiRcade was successfully backed on Kickstarter to the tune of roughly $660,000, with multiple editions promised and more than 200 licensed games on the horizon. I received the 64GB countertop machine and matching stand for this review, but there are 128GB versions with artwork from Dragon’s Lair, Double Dragon, or RetroMania Wrestling available as well.
If you’re used to the prices of Arcade1Up cabinets, iiRcade will perhaps cause a bit of sticker shock. The 64GB countertop machine costs $599, and adding the stand tacks on an additional $149. The 128GB editions range from $799 to $819; they come with matching stands and are fitted with official Sanwa joysticks. To be fair, all of these prices were halved for backers as an “early bird” special, but there’s no denying that the iiRcade is an investment. At this time, you can purchase the iiRcade through Walmart (64GB model only), the official website, and b8ta, though it will eventually be available at Amazon and a few other retailers like Touch of Modern.
Premium build quality
I’ve tested numerous Arcade1Up cabinets as well as AtGames’ Legends Ultimate, and it was immediately clear that the iiRcade is a step above most mainstream home arcade cabinets in terms of feel. It took me less than two hours to assemble the countertop and stand. Due to my personal setup, I only used the countertop without the stand for about an hour before connecting it to the base and moving it to its long-term spot. But the process for attaching it to the base is pretty painless, so it wouldn’t be hard to switch back and forth between the two setups, provided that you don’t mind removing the back cover to access the hand-screws.
The base 64GB model uses a mix of orange and blue pattern designs to offset the black finish and give it a slick look. Based on the pictures, the Dragon’s Lair and Black Edition (Double Dragon) cabinets have more eye-catching designs, but the base model still has a great look that is understated enough to fit in just about anywhere in your home. If you choose the Black Edition, you can also purchase your own skins from third-party retailers and give it a custom look.
The control panel has two 8-way Sanwa-style joysticks–one with a red knob and the other with a black knob. The sticks are a tad short, but I think this helps movement retain a tight and responsive feel. Each joystick is paired with six buttons, with ABC on the top row and XYZ below it. The buttons have a satisfying click that feels closer to my childhood trips to local arcades than the other home cabinets I own. There’s a row of seven buttons running along the top of the panel as well for basic functions like volume control, pausing, powering the unit on, joining the game (P1 and P2), and a coin button that you press to load credits.
The iiRcade is fitted with a gorgeous 19-inch high-definition display. While it’s the standout feature, it’s also the only aspect of the build that was flawed out of the box. The display is covered by a sheet of plexiglass that adds definition to the picture, but it was shipped with only one side protected by a thin film. Multiple, long horizontal scratches were present from the get-go. Another GameSpot editor also experienced this issue, so it’s possible you’d have the same problem. I’ve had similar problems with Arcade1Up cabinets, too. Thankfully, the scratches are only visible when the machine is off; I cannot see them while playing games. You can also request a replacement piece that will be covered on both sides, albeit without a black border painted on it.
It’s worth noting here that the iiRcade, when connected to its stand, is slightly taller than Arcade1Up cabinets with risers. It’s a great height for a standing cabinet, but you would need a fairly tall barstool (not one of the Arcade1Up stools) if you wanted to play while sitting down. Of course, the countertop unit can be placed on any surface if you prefer sitting while playing arcade games.
The iiRcade runs on a custom version of Android. It powers on quickly and has a responsive menu system. With a 1.8GHz Hexa-Core processor, an 800MHz Max Quad-Core GPU, and 4GB of Dual-Channel RAM, the iiRcade has enough juice under the hood to run classic arcade games as well as modern titles that use more refined 3D graphics and vivid colors. Games look sharp thanks to the high-definition display, and it cannot be overstated how impressive the speakers are.
The iiRcade is fitted with a pair of 50W stereo speakers. You will likely never need to have them running close to even 50 percent. In fact, the system even warns you that doing so is dangerous. As a test, I cranked the volume all the way up and walked outside. I could still hear game music clearly more than 100 feet away–it was still quite loud. You can connect headphones to the control panel or via Bluetooth for private listening, which I’ve done multiple times to save my wife and daughter from hearing my games from the other room.
Presentation-wise, the iiRcade is subdued. The menu is rather plain, with a navigation bar at the top separating games by genre. There is no menu music, only annoying ticking and whooshing sounds that register while navigating. After a few days of testing, I wound up turning the sound off until I booted a game.
A centerpiece arcade cabinet has to have an impressive game library to succeed, and the iiRcade is showing promise here with partnerships from major publishers such as Sega and Data East. There are currently hundreds of games available on the iiRcade storefront, with more set to arrive in the coming weeks and months.
The library is extremely varied, featuring a mix of arcade classics, obscure console games, mobile ports, a collection of ColecoVision games, and even some modern indies. If you browse through the game list on iiRcade’s website, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that a lot of these games are relatively unknown compared to the usual fare we see on home arcade cabinets. Even the Sega titles are quite eclectic, including the likes of Congo Bongo, Bonanza Bros., and five other games that appeared on Sega Genesis–though you’re getting the arcade versions here.
There are some big names on the iiRcade as well, including the first three Double Dragon titles (two available now), Ys Chronicles I & II, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, and Strikers 1945. The most notable modern game that has been announced for the cabinet is Dead Cells, a wonderful indie roguelike that will launch on the storefront this year. Select modern games also support online multiplayer, which is a nice addition if you have friends who also own an iiRcade.
Because the library has such a huge mix of games–some of which were never intended to be arcade titles–it’s likely you’ll find one that doesn’t quite gel with the setup. For example, I found Dead Effect 2 to be virtually unplayable due to the dual-stick control scheme and need to use nearly all of the buttons.
All of the games on the storefront are reasonably priced, ranging from $3 to around $15 for newer indies such as Teslagrad and Wonder Boy. The process for adding games to your cabinet isn’t ideal at the moment, though. There’s an app for Android, but iOS users have to visit the rudimentary browser storefront to make purchases. Unfortunately, the cabinet doesn’t have the storefront, and that’s my biggest complaint when it comes to searching the library for new games. It would be far more convenient to browse the library directly on the device.
It’s hard to say whether the iiRcade’s current library makes the price of admission worth it. Before buying, you should absolutely look at the full list of announced games and browse the storefront. If you’re hoping to pick up the iiRcade and be satisfied with what’s available out of the box, you will undoubtedly be disappointed.
iiRcade preloaded games list:
- Dragon’s Lair
- Double Dragon
- Beach Buggy Racing
- Bomb Squad
- Diver Boy
- Maniac Square
- Twin Brats
- Dragon Master
- Fancy World: Earth of Crisis
- Snowboard Championship
The 11 titles that come preloaded cover nice mix of genres, including shoot-’em-ups, puzzlers, fighting games, beat-’em-ups, and the quirky interactive film Dragon’s Lair. But it’s not a library that most people would be content with after spending more than $600 on an arcade cabinet. I played all of the games for at least a couple of hours each. Of the bunch, Gunbird was my favorite, but I also had fun revisiting Double Dragon and zipping around in Beach Buggy Racing–an Android port of a Mario Kart ripoff–with my daughter.
While your mileage with the library will vary, it’s clear that a lot of love and care was given to these games. I have tested more than 20 games on iiRcade, and all of them ran without a hitch. The emulation is top-notch. It’s readily apparent that you’re playing a polished version of these games on iiRcade, even if the games themselves can sometimes feel a tad awkward with cabinet control schemes. A recently added photo mode lets you share screenshots directly to your email, and you can also connect the iiRcade to your TV via HDMI to display the action on a larger screen. This is a neat feature if you plan on hosting little tournaments at your house with friends, but you should keep the HDMI cable (not included) plugged in at all times; otherwise, you’ll have to take off the back panel to access it each time.
iiRcade key specs
|1.8GHz Hexa-Core CPU|
|4GB Dual-Channel RAM|
|19-inch high-definition display|
|64GB of storage|
|61 inches tall (when connected to stand)|
The bottom line
The iiRcade is a well-made cabinet with great-feeling joysticks and buttons. The expanding library of games includes some surefire hits as well as plenty of hidden gems. As a centerpiece cabinet capable of housing hundreds of titles, the iiRcade has a ton of potential. Whether or not it’s right for you depends on if you’re interested enough in the game library. If you didn’t back the cabinet on Kickstarter, the price is fairly high, and you’ll continue to drop more cash on new games–though they are marked at reasonable prices. The iiRcade’s versatility as a countertop cabinet that can be turned into a nearly full-size standing cabinet allows it to be moved around with ease. Overall, the iiRcade is a great option for those who don’t want to be locked into a small library of games. If your gaming tastes change, you can add a new game to your library to liven things up–that’s the main draw of the iiRcade. As a multicade, the iiRcade has the potential to be the only cabinet you’ll need.
- Great build quality with premium joysticks and buttons
- Huge library of games to purchase on the store, and more are being added regularly
- Emulation is top-notch and games look great on the high-definition display
- Works wonderfully as either a countertop cabinet or full standing model
- Preloaded games are underwhelming
- You can’t purchase new games directly from the cabinet
- Bland menu undercuts the slick design of the cabinet
About the author: Steven Petite has spent 50-plus hours testing the iiRcade over the past few months. iiRcade provided the cabinet and stand for review.
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