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By Amanda Farda

Anyone feeling like video games have become an endless spiral of expectance might want to give Sifteo a try. Forget huge screens and hard-on-the-eyes 3D screens; the premise of Sifteo cubes is bringing gamers back to basics with an innovative twist. The tiny cubes (anywhere from two to six combined) have their own screens that interact with one another. Each is equipped with a 32-bit ARM microprocessor, a 3-axis accelerometer that determines positioning, 8MB Flash for quick launching, installing and uninstalling of games, a lithium-ion polymer rechargeable battery, and a full-color 128 pixel LCD touchscreen display.

A $149 starter kit gets you 3 Sifteo cubes, a charging station, the Siftlink USB wireless radio, Siftrunner software, 2 free games plus the Sifteo Creativity Kit and 500 points to use in the Sifteo Online Store. Any additional Sifteo cubes are $45 a pop, a bit pricey if you plan on making use of the 6-cube dynamic.

Another catch is that users will need a PC with Windows 7, XP, or Vista, or a Mac, running OS 10.5 or higher, to run the devices. You'll then need to actually download the SiftRunner software for your computer. Once installed, an account has to be opened along the way to launch it. Once that's done, you simply plug in the Siftlink USB wireless radio and click on the Sifteo cubes to begin operation. On screen instructions navigate you to add all available cubes and buy games from the online shop. Here's where the Sifteo magic lies. The games range from free to 300 points, to play. After they’re downloaded, you’ll find them in “my games”. Although there’s limited flash memory, there was enough for us to easily store eight games. Once acquired, all that's left to do is click "play" to launch any game; note that the sounds are actually generated from your computer’s speakers.

Learning how to manipulate the cubes is intuitive and fun. On-screen instructions during actual gameplay also help guide the action, like when it needs to go to the next screen and you simply tip the cube toward the other cube to transfer it–useful with games like in “Gopher Run”. The cubes can be placed next to one another and they can also be stacked atop each other. Some games like the puzzler, “Chroma”, utilize the accelerometer and tipping the cubes to manipulate the contents on screen. “Do the Shift” was also rather entertaining as it requires you to use the cubes in a very action-oriented "Bop-It" style manner.

My only complaint with it all is that the games, no matter how cool they were to play, seemed geared mostly towards a younger audience. I was left longing for a more thought-provoking/intriguing game library, but I imagine that that'll come with time, after more developers actually dedicate their savvy to the system.

Overall, Sifteo is an interesting tech toy that might get most mileage out of a younger audience for now. And considering the price of the average handhelds available in the market, Sifteo is worth its weight in ingenuity and possibilities.

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