Remember when games were a little more hands-on; you had pieces to move and things to match? Sifteo Cubes with current technology look to bring some of that hands-on back to players.
A Sifteo Cube is a small block about an inch and half wide and across, and half an inch tall. On its face it has a small LCD screen that is clickable, like a button. When you buy the starter pack you get three of these Sifteo Cubes. The Cubes are position sensitive; they know when they are next to each other and what side is touching or if you are tilting, shaking or have turned one over onto its face.
This position sensitivity is what make the Sifteo Cubes interesting, the games make them intriguing. Also in the starter pack are two free games. After you install the Siftrunner software (the software to run the cubes) and connect the Siftlink (a wireless USB connector) you can run one of the two free games.
The basic pack comes that with three cubes, a charging dock, the Siftlink USB dongle, Siftrunner software, 2 games (and a Creativity Kit that let you make your own sorting game), and 500 points (good for more downloadable games) costs $150 dollars. You can buy additional Sifteo Cubes for $45 dollars each. Currently the system can handle up to six cubes at once.
First let me take note of the Siftrunner software and the Siftlink, both run on your computer (which needs to be nearby to actually use the Sifteo Cubes). The computer is the brains and sound for all the games played on the Cubes, so portability depends on how portable the computer you are using is.
The games that come with the starter pack (Mount Brainiac and Peno's Vault )fell into the educational game genre, but did a good job of showing what you can do with the Sifteo Cubes.
Mount Brainiac has six different modes, Spelling Scramble (arrange letters to spell words), Number Jumble (sort numbers from smallest to largest), Blank Buster (fill in the blank to finish the word), Super Solver (solve math problems), Word Burst (sort words into alphabetical order), and Fraction Flood (sort factions from the smallest to the largest). Each mode is timed and scored based on how many puzzles you solve within the time limit. This game just proved to me I have been out of school for a while (fractions, my old nemesis).
Peno's Vault has you putting together math equations to reach a target number. Each target number is a code that unlocks a vault.
Once your brain has had enough you can download other games. Games range in price from free to 300 points. You can buy more points, currently in 500, 1000, and 1500 point packs that cost $5.00, $10.00, and $15.00 dollars respectively. The store, as of this writing, has 18 games total, ranging in genre from arcade to music and puzzle to word games.
I used the points from the starter pack to get three games; No Evil Monkeys, Booker the Penguin, and Smorgasbord.
No Evil Monkeys is a twist on the mixed picture puzzle game. Each cube has a picture of a monkey that has been mixed across all the cubes. You have to tilt the cubes to slide tiles, touch cubes together to move tiles from one to the other until you have sorted them back into full pictures.
Booker the Penguin is a maze game. It has Booker moving through a maze that you create by putting matching tunnels to the exits on the cube that he is currently in. Booker is searching the maze for Penguin eggs, once all the eggs are found you can then move him to the final exit. Oh, by the way Booker is being chased by a hungry Owlbear, they eat penguins, so don't take too long moving Booker around.
Lastly is Smorgasbord, a version of Rummy played with food. You are trying to match your menu. You can exchange food with community trays or with other players in the game.
I think the game I have had the most fun with so far is a free game called Do the Sift. Kind of a Simon Says game with a time limit that gets smaller and smaller as the game progresses, resulting in a frantic combination of tilting, flipping, and tapping together of cubes.
One thing I noticed as I played was how much fun I was having moving them around and causing me to think (darn you fractions)! I whiled away a couple hours before I knew it. The batteries last about four hours, so you'll get some good game play time out of them before you'll need to place them back in the charging base.
I found only three drawbacks with the Sifteo Cubes, the number of games available, lack of portability, and price. The number of games won't be a problem for long. Like any new game system there are only a few, but as time progresses more games will be developed and published. As for portability, Sifteo Inc., the company behind the cubes, is looking into apps that can be loaded onto phones or tablets to make the Sifteo Cubes more on-the-go.
Again, like any new system, the initial cost is going to be a stumbling block period. With Sifteo Cubes you are investing in potential. The games I played were fun (except maybe the fractions, someday though...). I remember how the Wii got kids up off the couch, similarly Sifteo Cubes have kids thinking while playing. Going beyond the basic educational games, you have to think spatially to play through even the arcade games. In Booker the Penguin you have to think, "Do I want to use the straight piece of tunnel or the turn," and "which way to I want to turn?"
Sifteo Cubes are fresh, new, innovative, and just plain fun. I can recommend them with an eye to the future potential of them becoming even better.
For more information see the Sifteo Cubes site or ThinkGeek.com