Monday, June 24, 2013

Toy Review: Rubik's Cube

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Creative puzzle with endless replay value
Cons: Will probably need a guide to solve first time; stiff at first
The Bottom Line: Twist and turn the cube
Can you get it realigned?
Endless fun trying

You Know You're a Child of the 80's If You Can Solve a Rubik's Cube

Sometimes, I wonder about the fads that catch on.  When I was in early elementary school, everyone had a Rubik's Cube.  I remember getting one for Christmas in what had to be second or third grade and being thrilled.  There were contests to see how quickly you could solve it.  Somewhere along the way, I lost mine, but I went out a few years back and picked up a new one.

There seem to be many sizes of Rubik's Cubes these days, but the one that immediately pops into my mind is the classic 3x3 size.  That means that each of the six sides of this cube have 9 squares on them, three vertical and three horizontal.  When you first get the cube, there are six colors, one on each side.  But then you can start twisting and mess it all up.

The cube is designed to move in rows vertically and horizontally, so you can just grab and twist.  The more you twist, the greater the sides will get messed up so that soon no two squares belong together.  I will say my new one was very stiff when I got it, much stiffer than I remembered my old one being.  At times, it was hard to get it to twist, even though I knew it should go that way.  But now, a couple years later, it flows very smoothly in any direction.  It's just a matter of being stiff when new.

Once you've messed it all up, the trick is to get all the squares back correctly aligned.  Now there are people much smarter than I who could figure out how to get all six sides to be the same color again on their own.  Personally, I can get one side, but as soon as I try to get another side correct, I mess up the first one.  Fortunately, there are books, and now web sites, that show you how to solve it.  Is that cheating?  Probably, but as I repeated those instructions as a kid, not only did I memorize them, but I figured out why what I was doing worked.  I'm not going to say playing with a Rubik's Cube made me smarter, but having a booklet on solving one certainly didn't make me dumb.  I still have to follow that book step by step, but I have impressed some friends doing that, even when they know I am following someone else's instructions.

The sides of the square are only a couple of inches, so it's a relatively small toy.  It may be low tech, but it's still entertaining and something that will keep kids entertained for hours.  Like my friends, they can have contests to see who solves it faster or even challenge each other to solve it starting with a certain side.

Maybe I do know why there was a Rubik's Cube craze in the early 80's - it's a fun toy.  It's fun for those who remember it from their childhood or to challenge kids today.

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