Sifteo is an exciting new video game concept. It’s not simply another gaming platform like Gameboy, PSP or even an iPhone. It’s unique in that the game play is not limited to the virtual world on the screen, but you actually interact with device in the real world by rotating, tilting and moving the individual cubes.
It is a well built elegant, product, even the packaging was beautiful. In the box you’ll find three cubes, a charging unit (with space for 6 cubes), USB dongle (for connecting to the PC) and some stickers (presumably to differentiate the cubes?). Each cube has a 128 pixel color LCD screen, the screen itself can be pressed as a button, but most of the interaction is thru the internal 3-axis accelerometer and near field object sensors. Also impressive is the 32-bit ARM CPU and 8mb flash memory inside each cube.
Our cubes came with about 60% charge, so I thought I could get started playing right away. Nope. Before you can start playing, you need to download the Siftrunner software and install it from their website. Then you need to open an account. Then you need to download some games. Then you need to link your cubes with a program on the PC. You do this through the included USB dongle. Then finally you can install a game on your cubes and start playing. It would be nice if you could get right to the playing, but the design of the Sifteo system is dependent on the PC.
Once you have a game on your cubes, you must initiate play on the PC screen. The game sounds even come from the PC and not the cubes. This isn’t a problem if your computer is centrally located in your home or if your child has his/her own computer. But if you want to play with these on the go, you’re out of luck.
That’s not to say that there is not a place for Sifteo in many families. The target age group seems to be between 4-11, and the selection of available apps reflects that. Currently there are 18 different titles to choose from. There are a of couple mini apps that come with the unit and there are a few more free ones that can be downloaded. For the others, you’ll need to use points. You can purchase 500 points for $5. Most games cost 100 points, a few are 300. A bit on the high side considering that a full-fledged iPhone game costs $.99. But fortunately you start off with 500 points for free. Using those 500 points I was able to purchase a few games, bringing me a total of 12 out of the 18. There is an SDK available, so hopefully in coming months we’ll see more titles in the store. In addition, there is even a way for you to make you own custom games.
Though you aren’t going to find Angry Birds here, there is a lot of fun to be had. The focus of Sifteo is learning. And this is definitely where they excel. It is a great way to teach basic math and spelling as well as problem solving skills. I see this more of an educational toy that parents will play with their young children, rather the kids going off and playing alone. On this point alone, Sifteo would be a great choice for your child.
My 9 year old nephew loves Sifteo and was thoroughly engaged in playing Moon Marble, Mount Brainiac and No Evil Monkeys. I thought maybe he’d get bored after a few minutes, but no. He just kept on playing, trying his best to solve the game. This was really impressive considering that he has three other video game systems that he could have been playing, but he chose to sit at the table with these little Sifteo cubes.
Though the unit comes with three cubes, many games would be far more engaging and challenging with five or six. You can purchase additional cubes for $49. And given that the initial cost is $148.99 at Marbles: The Brain Store, it may seem a little pricey. Then again, quality tech toys don’t come cheap. If you are looking for something unique for your kids this year Sifteo is for you. It’s also worth checking out Marbles: The Brain Store for other brain-boosting games.
The Good: Unique design.
The Bad: Pricey and must use in conjunction with a PC.