If you like puzzles, you’ve almost certainly tried your hand at the Rubik’s Cube. After all, permuting through 43 quintillion possible combinations in a fruitless effort to find a single, solved, state is a great way to spend an afternoon. Fancy a smaller, more techy challenge? Look no further than the GoCube 2×2, the latest arrival to the smart cube world.
Who put Bluetooth in my Rubik’s Cube?
The GoCube 2×2 is made by a company called Particula, which develops and manufactures a range of “smart toys”. If you’re casually involved in the world of cubing, you may recognise them as the makers of the GoCube 3×3 and its estranged cousin, the Rubik’s Connected – the only two smart cubes permitted for use in the Rubik’s Cube World Cup 2020.
That’s right, while the rest of the world stopped moving, speed cubers got turning. This is where a lot of the appeal for a smart cube lies; for passionate cubers who want to improve their skills, online matchmaking allows you to square (or rather, cube) off against anyone from around the world. For those looking to learn, the GoCube app gives you a quite literally hands-on tutorial, teaching you all the basics in less than an hour. So is a 2×2 worth your time?
GoCube 2×2: Unboxing
The first level of your GoCube experience is the unboxing – and it certainly sets the tone. The outside of the box is sleeved in a matte white slipcase, with glossy details and a short blurb outlining the specs of the cube. If you didn’t look too closely, you’d think Apple was getting into the smart cube game. Slip that sleeve off and crack open the box within, and the puzzle is revealed.
The contents of the box include a quick start guide, USB-C charging cable and a felt pouch to keep the cube in. Who says smart cubes can’t live a life of luxury?
Of course, the natural next step to any Rubik’s cube unboxing is to download the app that connects to your puzzle. The quick start guide points you directly to the correct app to download (since GoCube already has two others), so the process is relatively painless. The most annoying aspect is having to create an account. Unfortunately, the cube isn’t ready to go right out of the box, and I had to charge it for 20 minutes or so before it would connect.
Overall, the unboxing makes for a strong start to your GoCube experience. The box is well made, the start guide is easy to follow, and it takes less than half an hour to get going.
GoCube 2×2: Cube quality
No matter how much tech you pack into a cube, what makes or breaks your experience is how well it does what a Rubik’s cube is designed for: twisting, turning, and infuriating. The GoCube hits that sweet spot. The combination of slightly pillowed faces and stickerless pieces make for a cube that looks and feels great. And, just to make sure you know this is a cube made in the 21st century, internal lighting flashes when you solve it.
Like many other speed cubes, the 2×2 uses magnets to snap the faces into place, making sure you don’t over or under turn a side. Unfortunately, it sometimes does this a little too well, to the point where trying to solve it quickly ends up feeling clunky. If you’re looking for a smart speed cube, the GoCube 2×2 might not keep up with you.
A massive improvement over the Rubik’s Connected and GoCube 3×3 is the addition of USB-C charging, compared to the bizarre specialised charging ports on its predecessors. As well as looking nicer on the cube, it won’t be another almost useless cable knocking around the house. Speaking of the tech, it is a shame not to see a gyroscope in the 2×2. One of the things that made the GoCube 3×3 stand out was the app knowing how it was oriented, which made following a tutorial far easier.
GoCube 2×2: Software
Arguably the most important aspect of a smart cube, the software is what makes this thing worth buying. Particula is well versed in this practice, having already developed the apps for the GoCube 3×3 and the Rubik’s Connected.
The 2×2 app is no different – literally. Bar some art tweaks for a smaller cube, the software is identical. This is no bad thing (if it ain’t broke, right?) but it does make me wonder if the company would be better off combining everything under one app, and simply allowing you to select the cube you’re using when you open it.
If you’ve never solved a 2×2 (or any kind of Rubik’s Cube), the GoCube academy is most likely your first stop after logging in. The tutorial is easy to follow, and eases you in nicely. Before even twisting a face, you learn the layout and notation of the cube, which is vital to solving any kind of cube. As the lessons progress, being able to see your cube’s state on screen helps you work out what moves to make next, which is the biggest advantage a smart cube has over any other puzzle.
Using the tutorial, I learned how to solve it in less than an hour – I’d call that a success.
GoCube 2×2: Challenge modes
Beyond the academy, the Solo and Pro Cuber arenas are where you’ll spend most of your time. Here, you test your skills by racing to solve the cube as fast as possible, either by yourself or against a random opponent.
The solo mode is the best option for practice. It gives you an algorithm to scramble it, 15 seconds to inspect, and you’re off. Once you have solved it, things get a little more interesting, as the app presents you with the stats for your solution. This shows you where to specifically focus your practice, which is definitely useful for those looking to improve.
Naturally, the next step in your quest to speed cube domination is competition. GoCube has a mode for that, too. Enter the Pro Cuber arena, and you’re matched up against another GoCube 2×2 user. It’s essentially identically to the Solo mode: algorithm, inspection, solve. The difference, of course, is that you’re no longer alone. In my experience, the only thing that lets this mode down is the crowd; a lot of my matches were almost certainly against bots. While that is a nice confidence boost, it takes the fun away from thrashing a lesser cuber. The only conceivable solution is for everyone to buy a GoCube 2×2.
After playing with the 2×2 for a week or so, it’s easy to see why GoCube are the first choice for those looking at smart cubes. Beyond technology and a nice app interface, it just feels good to use. While it is let down by clunky movement at speed, casual cubers looking to improve their skills will find the GoCube 2×2 a perfect start to their smart cube story.
Ease of use
Value for money
Go Cube 2x2 Summary
A great little cube for beginners, although it struggles at speed!
- Simple to set up
- Variety of playing modes
- USB-C charging
- Might not keep up with fast hands
- No gyroscope