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This iPad foosball table almost nails it

I really wanted this foosball table to be awesome. It's not bad, but you'll soon discover there's a bit of a flaw, especially if you play foosball regularly. The table itself is basically an accessory for the app Classic Match Foosball (the app is free, of course). From New Potato Tech, the table itself is slightly longer than a full size iPad, with fast-moving rods and a nice heft to it that belies the plastic exterior.

There's a 30-pin dock in the model I tried, and the interface with the app worked as advertised. You can also use it as a dock, and there's a USB port on the bottom of the table to allow you to plug in the iPad whilst you play.

The rods for the Classic Match Foosball table have cross-hatching on them, which appears to enable optical sensors in the table to track movement and rotation -- exactly what you'd need to follow a foosball table's rods during a game. The app itself is very responsive, and I had no complaints with that. Whether I was meticulously lining up a shot on a slow-moving ball or just spinning the rod like a madman, the table kept pace. The "action" on the rods was impeccable, as it felt fluid and pretty much like a brand-new foosball table. Even with some rough play the table did fine (and there are pads you can add to get the iPad more secure in the table).

This iPad foosball table almost nails it

Unfortunately, a direct simulation of a foosball table in such a small space, as any lifelong Spencer's customer will tell you, isn't necessarily that much fun. Foosball, like air hockey and pool, doesn't always translate well to a smaller table because the speed at which it is commonly played becomes too much for the brain to handle when shrunk down.

I remember watching the evolution of numerous air hockey iOS games, so maybe the foosball app will tune itself over time, should the developers continue to playtest it and focus on the fun, not the simulation.

The simulation is also somewhat flawed due to the hardware, however. In typical foosball, the rods on either side are offset, and line up with the rods you see on the table -- the ones which correspond to your "team" are easily, visibly connected to the handles which control them. The Classic Match table, however, chose to align those rods. So what happens is the rod doesn't line up with what you see on the screen. In videos I watched where seasoned foosball players were using the table, the cognitive disconnect was never overcome. Repeatedly they went for the wrong handle because the handle which looked like it would control one of your guys actually extends onto the screen for an opposing team. Your handle does control one of your team's rods, but those rods are offset.

This iPad foosball table almost nails it

The few seconds of delay it takes for the brain to compensate for this disconnect, over time, made the foosball table less fun. It became obvious in short order that the frustration factor of having to compensate for the design choice was a non-starter.

It's possible that over time this problem would lessen as the brain adjusts, but I don't think so. Worse, this can't be easily solved in software. The rods should have been offset from each other. Instead, they are directly across from each other on the table, so it will never really function like a real foosball table. At least, the rods won't ever line up correctly.

The shame of it all is New Potato has created a table that, aside from that one flaw, feels and plays fantastically. If you can get your hands on one and try it, maybe the fact that the rods don't line up with what you see on the screen won't matter. But before you spend US$99 on this, I recommend you try it for yourself and see if you can wrap your brain around that flaw, especially while the foosball ball flies around the screen at near-light speeds.