Sifteo Cubes are a fun, innovative gaming system unlike anything else you can buy (see the story behind Sifteo Cubes). The sleek design boggles the mind; from the time you insert the first battery you are thinking, “Wow, this was hard to build!” Sifteo Cubes don’t just look good, they actually deliver on their promise of intelligent play. Quick and easy to get setup, the cubes interface is simple enough to master in seconds. The elements of the cubes, from the graphics to the touch/tilt technology, give off a nostalgic (for older gamers) and brand-spanking-new vibe all at once that is truly pleasant. Once the novelty of the concept wears off and all that is left is the gaming experience itself, you (or your kid) won’t be disappointed as there is plenty to hold the attention.
Unboxing the Sifteo Cubes is a fun experience. When you slide open the contents of the box you you see the 3 included cubes (which house the screens games are played on), the base station (the real brains of the operation which houses the speaker, stores games and connects to a computer to download additional content), a USB cable and a bright orange box that houses a carrying bad/pouch. Underneath the carrying bag is starter battery pack of AAA batteries (each cube uses 1 battery and the base unit uses 2). In other words, you’ve got everything you need to get started playing right out of the box.
Setup couldn’t be quicker or easier. From opening the box to starting the first game took maybe 3 or 4 minutes. By briefly studying the included instruction card (you can quickly discern that since there is no thick instruction manual there is no steep learning curve), a player immediately understands exactly how to operate the cubes (tilt, flip, shake, neighbor or press). What other product lets you “neighbor” as an action?! None. The base station has a power button which, once pressed, neatly activates the surrounding cubes. When the system comes to life with happy chirps and beeps and less-than HD graphics and animations it reminds me of a vintage Nintendo system in a very good way. The Nintendo Wii proved that HD systems don’t have a corner on the fun market.
When the cubes power on, one cube becomes the main cube and displays a menu. You can tilt the cube from side to side to scroll through the menu and click the screen to launch a specific game. You can also rotate through the menu to get a readout of the power levels of the cubes as well as details such as how many cubes are connected (you can purchase additional cubes).
The design of the Sifteo Cubes system is stellar. In a recent promotional video, Sifteo says people have described the cubes as Legos meet Nintendo meet Apple and that’s a pretty great description. The cubes are attractive in their white shells and the menus/graphics are well done and make good use of the available space. Even small text on the screens is plenty easy to read. You begin to get a glimpse into just how complex the cubes are (and what a mechanical marvel they are) when you realize how the batteries just fit diagonally within each cube–I’m no engineer, but I get the feeling that there is a lot packed into these little computers. One thing is for sure: as complex as they were to build, Sifteo Cubes are dead simple to use and that is a pretty cool dichotomy.
The cubes are light weight in your hands and are jus the right size for either adults or kids to hold and manipulate. Unlike many Android-based phones/tablets I have seen, the Sifteo software runs smoothly as you tilt or click. There are no glitches or hiccups. The experience is quite seamless.
Obviously, this is a gaming system that is great for kids. Additionally it is the kind of toy parents would want their kids to play with. It’s not mindless. It’s educational. It teaches critical thinking skills and makes kids use their noggins. But it can also be fun for older kids (you know, kids of all ages) as well which brings me to my favorite part of the Sifteo Cubes experience thus far:
Word Caravan! While there are some great games that could appeal to a wide variety of age groups (including Chroma Splash, Cube Buddies and Sandwich Kingdom which come preloaded along with Word Caravan in addition to other downloadable games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ninja Slide), Word Caravan is my favorite. It’s a word puzzle game that fans of crosswords, word scrambles, Words With Friends and Scrabble will enjoy.
If there was room for improvement I can only think of two areas: loading time and graphics quality. The good news is, neither is enough to deter me from recommending Sifteo Cubes to others; they are very small complaints. For what the cubes do ad for the audience they target, better graphics aren’t necessary at this point. Thanks to Moore’s Law, we know these facets will improve as time goes on, but now is certainly a good time to buy.
I highly recommend picking up a set of Sifteo Cubes if you want to keep your kids brains occupied with fun but useful gaming. The system/ecosystem will only improve thank to an SDK that will allow developers to create fun new games for the platform. Here’s what you need to know to get a set of your own: