Game Review: Riddle Cube

Riddle CubeDo you remember Tangrams, where you made shapes out of other shapes? I used to love that game. My fifth grade science teacher always kept a set in her classroom, and my friends and I were constantly challenging each other.

Riddle Cube is kind of like a 3-D version of that, taken to the next level.

Instead of having a bunch of quadrilaterals to work with, however, each player has a cube of connected plastic tubes. The tubes have cord running through them, so you can twist and rearrange the joints however you choose.

Playing is very easy to understand: each player gets a cube. Someone draws a card, and then you race to make the shape on the cube.

With the easy cards, it’s fun and fast and silly, particularly if you have a bunch of players who like to accidentally knock elbows with each other. If you start with the easiest cards, even young kids quickly catch on.

The harder cards is where it gets, well, hard. Some of those don’t even have shapes. They have words. One of the clues my group ran into was “Mexican Taco”. After a brief period of stunned amazement, we reset the timer and started in on it.

Educational Value

Ignoring the text challenges for a moment, the educational value of this game is obvious. Players are visualizing and creating 3-D shapes, so spatial reasoning, visual learning, and math skills are all being strengthened, and fine-motor skills are being improved. Once you throw in the text challenges, there’s a real social skills element, as well. It can be tough for an 8-year old to agree that his rival has just created a Mexican Taco.

Actually, if you’re playing with children that young, I’d recommend either just using the “easy” cards, or doing what we did: allow the group to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down vote on each card picked. If the majority of the group thinks creating a snail is impossible, just go to the next card.

But is it fun?

In a word, yes. Trying to create a shape while the sand slips through the timer would be tense and fun all by itself. The excitement amps up even higher when you’re trying to make that shape at the same time that you can see the progress other players are making. Throw in the crazy cards (Tweezers, really?) and you have a game that’s fun, challenging, and funny.

Sum it up

As a parent, I’m using this game exactly as my 5th grade science teacher used Tangrams. It’s in our den, always available to be played. We play it as a solo game in front of the television and also as a group game. We have player vs. player throwdowns and moments of individual accomplishment. Heck, sometimes we play it as a betting game (for pretzel sticks, of course). None of us are worried about the educational aspect, but there’s no doubting that it is there.

In addition to being the editor and web guy for Games for Educators, Patrick Matthews is the author of Dragon Run, published by Scholastic, and the MathFinder series of puzzle books, published by Mindware. He also designs games and builds web sites. Stop by DaddyTales for a quick laugh, or check out Live Oak Games to see some of his award-winning games.

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