Tuesday, April 1, 2008


The ultimate physical puzzle, the Rubik's Cube, is translated into a somewhat un-ultimate puzzle game with GNUbik. Featuring a 3D (it looks 2D-isometric, but behaves in a 3D manner, so I'll take their word for it) representation of a Rubik's Cube, you click in order rotate the desired section of the cube until you've solved the puzzle.

Honestly, for what it is, this is almost as good as it gets. You can set the cube to be whatever size you desire, you can alter the colors, turn them into patterns, and even use photos as the tiles on your cube instead of plain ole' colors, it's got built in scripts that will solve part or all of the puzzle for you... it's quite a full-featured piece of software. You can even rewind what you've done, all the way back to the beginning or back to a marker you placed at some point.

The implementation of the single most important thing, however, is a bit dicey. Moving sections of the cube is done by moving the mouse over the cube until you have an arrow pointing in the direction you want to rotate the piece over top of the piece you want to rotate. I think it's supposed to decide which way you want to go on the basis of which edge of the individual tile you're closest to, but it doesn't work very well at all and requires a lot of intricate mouse-jiggling all-too-frequently in order to get it set up to go the way you want it to.

Everything else about the game works great, so it's doubly a shame that the actual play of the game is so painful. Rotating the entire cube, to get a look at the other faces, works like a charm. You just drag with the mouse-button held. The graphics aren't exactly super-snazzy but they get the job done, and get it done with precision and clarity, so you really can't complain. There's no sound, but for god's sake, a real Rubik's Cube doesn't have sound either, so it's no lack. It's realism!

If you would like to play with a Rubik's Cube on your computer, this is definitely an option; the unwieldy controls can be lived with, and the only thing it's missing is a 'save' feature. Without that, you have to leave the program open until you're done, and I can foresee a situation where hours of hard work are lost due to an unfortunate system crash. Add saving, and fix the hot-zones for the rotation, and this would be a perfect (if not particularly attractive) game.

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