In 1980, Erno Rubik made history, when he introduced his Hungarian Magic Cube to the world. You know it by its more common name, Rubik's Cube. This clever little puzzle sucked in millions of players almost overnight, all of them on a quest to solve the cube by getting each side back to a single color. With such a sudden explosion in popularity, Rubik's Cube was destined to become an icon of its time. Yet even now, long after the 1980s have passed, Rubik's Cube continued to sell and to ensnare puzzle fans.
So what does all that have to do with Atari Video Cube? Surprisingly, not as much as you might think. Atari's video game undoubtedly was insired by Rubik's Cube, and undoubtedly was released in hopes of grabbing the attention of at least a small fraction of Rubik's Cube addicts. Yet the game actually doesn't play like Rubik's Cube, despite the visual similarities. Instead of rotating an entire row or column, colors are swapped one tile at a time. This effectively makes the puzzle much easier to solve, even with limits on how the in-game puzzle solver, Hubie the Cube Master, can move.
The differences between Rubik's Cube and Atari Video Cube may explain why Atari didn't seek permission to name their game after the more famous puzzle, except, apparently they did. Atari eventually rereleased the game, this time calling it Rubik's Cube. The game play didn't change, however, and so players hoping for a perfect virtual recreation of Rubik's Cube were still left disappointed.
While Atari Video Cube may not earn high marks for its ability to recreate Rubik's Cube, it has become a very sought-after cartridge for the Atari 2600 library. This has less to do with the game's quality, and more to do with its scarcity. Atari Video Cube was one of five games initially offered only by mail order, and only to members of the Atari Fan Club. Atari did eventually sell some of these games through retail stores, but even then there weren't many to be had. Consequently, not a whole lot of people have had a chance to try and solve Atari's cube. They can still pick up Rubik's Cube, however. In the end, that's probably the better choice.