Rubik’s Cube: great apps, but wasted efforts…

cube.PNGErnö Rubik’s Cube is possible one of the most well-known puzzles of recent years. Almost exactly a century after the 15-puzzle craze of 1880, Rubik’s Cube set off its own craze from 1980 onwards. It’s a fantastically great puzzle (it actually was the puzzle that got me into the hobby of collection, solving and designing puzzles), and now it has come to the iPhone as well. However, it might just as well have passed this opportunity. The iPhone is not the right place for a Rubik’s Cube.

There are currently nine [!] separate implementation of Rubik’s Cube available in the app store. Notice the efforts to find new names (links redirect to iTunes):

Most of these are simply Rubik’s 3x3x3 Cube in electronic format. Although some of the apps are beautifully made, it simply doesn’t make sense as a puzzle on a screen. It is tedious to make movements, and it is too much work to quickly take a peek at the other side. This puzzle just lives from the touch and feel as it moves in your hands!

VCube_7_scrambled.jpgIt might start to make more sense if some more variations on the basic 3x3x3 theme would be offered. However, currently only Lee’s Cube (2x2x2, 3x3x3, 4x4x4) and xCube (2x2x2, 3x3x3, 4x4x4, 5x5x5) offer some more possibilities. However, these have all been around already for 25 years, and recently even larger Cubes have become available (see for example the gorgeous 7x7x7 to the left).

For a computer puzzle, I find that only non-physically possible variants of Rubik’s Cube are interesting. Please—and this plea is directed both to the developers and to the users— ignore these puzzles on the iPhone. It’s a waste of time.

[Update 16 December 2008] Number ten, with yet a new variation on the possible names for such apps: The Cube.

[Update 27 January 2009] Various developers are trying out different control schemes to make it more natural to solve a cube on the iPhone: LCube, Cubed, and Cubee (you just have to love these names…). I didn’t try them, but I do not expect that that any of this will come even close the real thing. But probably I am just spoiled, as I grew up with the physical cube in my hands… For those that are still counting, that makes 13 different virtual Rubik’s Cube app in the app store.

[Update 31 January 2009] The description in the app store says: The Continuum Transfunctioner is a very mysterious and powerful device, and its mystery is only exceeded by its power.” That’s a fancy way to describe a Rubik’s Cube!

[Update 1 February 2009] We already had iCube, LCube, xCube, and now there is R’sCube too. App number 15 to present Rubik’s Cube.

[Update 5 February 2009] The pace of new cube apps simply will not diminish: today it gives us CrazyCube.

[Update 22 February 2009] Number seventeen: iRubixCube.

[Update 8 March 2009] Number eighteen: uCube. This one is slightly interesting though, because the cube is visualized from the inside. Of course, this changes nothing to the logic of the puzzle, but it is an interesting way to show more sides in one view! Further, cubes are offered until 9x9x9—that’s the biggest I have seen in the app store.

[Update 2 April 2009] Number nineteen: MiCube. Only 3x3x3, but free.

[Update 1 June 2009] Number twenty! K-Cube. also free.

[Update 22 June 2009] Number twenty-one, though not free: Qubik.

[Update 26 June 2009] Magic Cube 3D.

[Update 8 Juli 2009] iQBrick Cube Lite.

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