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Don’t get me wrong. iOS games are great. But sometimes all the tapping and dragging leaves us wanting some old-school gaming--moving stuff around and actually interacting with physical objects. Sifteo’s cubes bridge that gap, bringing tactile sensations back to digital gaming. The cubes have little color screens on top, but gameplay isn’t all virtual. Onboard accelerometers sense motion, and the cubes also register their positions in relation to each other. You’ll be tilting, flipping, and moving these cubes all over to win.
Setting up the cubes is fairly straight-forward. You need to download the free Siftrunner application, which also has to be running while you play games on your Sifteo cubes. The cubes, which come in a set of three, connect wirelessly with your Mac via a small USB dongle. All the sound comes from your Mac--as well as the controls for starting, stopping, and changing games--so you have to stick close by, although the cubes have a range of about 20 feet.
The games range from simple word and math puzzles for kids, to more complicated strategy games for kids at heart. We particularly enjoyed Blok 9, a modern twist on an Othello-style strategy game. Tilting the rechargeable cubes moves colored blocks into place, and you can “pour” blocks from one Sifteo cube to another. The effect is neat, and the physics of the game are responsive and fluid. The Siftrunner app also includes a store, where you can buy additional games for a few bucks to add to your Sifteo cubes.
The bottom line. Sifteo is fun, but being tethered to a computer severely limits playability--it’d be tough for kids to play with these on a car trip, for example. And at 149 bucks a pop, Sifteo is a hefty investment that may not play well with others.
Mac OS 10.5 or later, USB port
Fun to play. Thanks to lots of electronics, the cubes can interact with each other. Can have up to six cubes to accommodate more players.
You have to stay near a computer running the Siftrunner application. LCDs are hard to see in bright light. For $149, we would have hoped for a wider selection of free Sifteo games.