Hardware Review: GoDice
The internet rules everything around us. At least, that what tech toy manufacturers seem to think. The jokes of everything being “smart” are kind of old at this point, but that’s because they’ve become true; nearly anything you can think of has some kind of app or internet-connected version of it.
A few years ago we looked at the GoCube, an app-connected speed puzzle cube. While it seemed an odd thing to make “smart,” the built in teacher and ability to race against other cube owners online helped to justify its internet connectablility. The problem is that making something “smart” comes with a cost…literally in the case of said GoCube, which was nearly $100 at the time of writing.
The company behind GoCube, Particula, is back at it again with another app-connected toy, this time with more general appeal. Speed cubes may appeal only to a niche…but everyone uses dice in one way or another at some point, right? So, integrate technology into some dice, give them a special app, and bam, instant general audience appeal!
Unfortunately, I’m not so sure about that.
It appears that Particula took to heart the positive reception their previous product received for its packaging, as we find something similar here. A cardboard-sleeved box that opens on a unique angle to immediately present the device, the packaging here again gives a solid first impression. We received the “full pack” version of the GoDice, which includes six dice, a case and charger, a carrying pouch, and a piece of plastic I wasn’t able to identify immediately.
Right away, my first surprise was something that wasn’t included: a charging cable. This is a smart device, right? So it has to be charged in some way, and that’s typically a USB cable. Perhaps the creators thought that everyone has piles of USB cables nowadays, so they didn’t need to include one?
A closer look at the packaging revealed why: this device doesn’t use a rechargeable battery. In fact, it uses something I hardly ever keep in my apartment anymore: AAA batteries. Outside of television remotes and retro console controllers, I honestly can’t remember the last time I needed standard batteries for anything – and they aren’t included in this package.
So, one trip to a local convenience store later, I was able to actually begin looking at the GoDice. The case for the dice is actually pretty interesting: a two piece tube held together with magnets. When separated, a cap on one piece can be twisted to release the dice. The other piece is where the batteries are installed, and acts as the charger for the dice.
Here is where I made another assumption about the GoDice, due to them being a “smart” toy. Surely, since the batteries are in the base, when the dice are in the tube and everything’s connected together, they must charge automatically! Maybe some kind of wireless charging passthrough built into each die to pass along the power to charge them while they’re stacked in the case?
Turns out I was going two-for-two on incorrect guesses. The GoDice have to be charged individually. The five-dot side on each die includes conductors in the dots, and this side is pressed into the base to charge. Charging takes only ten or so seconds for each die, but it felt really odd and…well, somewhat backwards technologically to have to manually charge each die one at a time.
Between the batteries and surprisingly manual charging, my thoughts were beginning to change on this product. It didn’t seem much like a “smart” tech product at all. These first impressions led me to believe that the GoDice are more a modern children’s toy than anything else. But would this opinion hold once I actually started to put them to use?
Adding Things Up
Now, without the app that the GoDice connect to, all you have in your hand are really expensive standard dice. So, after charging them up, I downloaded the free app to my iPad and began to test them the way they’re really meant to be used. That’s where I figured out what the aforementioned “piece of plastic I couldn’t identify” was: a stand for phones and tablets.
Upon loading up the app, it detects the dice relatively quickly, and then updates you on their charge levels. Despite me charging them to full about 15 minutes before loading up the app, I was informed that the dice were already down to around 70-75% charge. Seeing that they’d discharged that much so quickly was somewhat surprising. Then again, these are small dice with (presumably) very small batteries inside, and there’s no power switch on them so they’re likely constantly putting out a signal once charged up. I can forgive this, considering they take just seconds to charge back up.
The app offers up a handful of games to play with the dice. These include board games such as backgammon and ludo, some child-focused unique games, an RPG dice program, and (of course) a generic copyright-friendly version of Yahtzee.
Being the most familiar to me, I loaded up the latter (here called “Yatzy!”) for my initial tests. Not every game requires all six dice, so before loading into a game, the app asks you to roll which dice you want to use. I rolled five dice, clicked through the tutorial of how to play, and then started quietly rolling fancy internet dice alone in my apartment.
The app detects the dice being shaken and rolled quickly, and the results are consistently accurate. In fact, throughout my testing of them, I only had a detection issue exactly once, which was quickly resolved by just rolling the affected die again. Unfortunately, the dice and app don’t do everything for you in this Yahtzee clone – I had to keep track of the number of times I could roll myself, and manually select which hands I wanted to bank each turn.
While they worked well, this particular game didn’t seem to really show off the GoDice as a compelling product. Just dice that could report what side is currently facing up to my iPad. In fact, most games were like this. The most interesting games I tried at this moment were, surprisingly, the child-focused games.
Most of these are used to help teach basic math in various ways. One of them, involving the game generating a random number, having the player roll three dice, and tasking the player to use the numbers rolled to create a math formula to get as close to the random number as possible in a time limit, was legitimately enjoyable. But this just further reinforced that the GoDice aren’t much more than a modern children’s toy.
Exactly one game used the connectivity of the dice for anything more that “reading what side is facing up.” A game that involves rolling six dice and banking points, but if any combination of dice adds to seven, then those dice are “dead” and can’t be rolled again on your turn. The connectivity here made this game much faster to play; rather than having to look over your dice and pick out what (if any) add to seven, the app automatically checks for combos and then lights up the dice that are now “dead.”
The last thing I tried out was the RPG dice app. Now, I don’t play tabletop RPGs, but if there seemed to be any major use for the GoDice outside of children’s toy, this was it. The app was pretty simple – you can dial in any pre-roll adjustments/buffs/etc, and then roll your dice and it calculates your roll for you. Just one issue: the GoDice are all six-sided dice, and I’m pretty sure that most tabletop games require other die styles.
Now, the app mentions “shells,” and looking into it, there are supposed to be shell accessories that you can put one of the GoDice into to turn them into D20s or D24s. There’s a setting in the main app menu to set whether certain GoDice currently have a shell on them as well. Seems like an interesting way to solve this issue…though I’m not sure about having to buy extra accessories to gain this functionality.
Here’s the thing…I can not find these shells for sale anywhere. The original KickStarter for the GoDice mentions “GoDice comes with customized designed shells of D20 and D24[…],” but my package did not include them. In fact, they only seemed to be included in certain reward tiers. These shells do not appear to be available on the company’s official shop page, nor on their Amazon page. As far as I can tell, outside of KickStarter rewards, these shells don’t actually exist to buy at the time of writing.
A Losing Gamble
Year ago, after testing Particula’s GoCube, the final question we had to answer was, “does this product benefit from being a smart product?” Our conclusion then was, despite being an interesting product, no. When asking the same question about the GoDice, there seems to be even less benefit.
Outside of a few unique scenarios in a couple games, the only thing this device really does is read what side of a die is currently facing up, and report it to the app. Anything more involved than this in any particular game, down to “how many rolls do I get in a turn” in some cases, still has to be manually tracked.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, everything about the GoDice screams “modern children’s toy.” I do not mean this in a derogatory way, but with this in mind, we have to bring in the price of this product. At the time of writing, the same “full set” that we reviewed here is selling for $119.95. Even considering the tech included in the dice, this is a somewhat exorbitant price for a product that requires a mobile app to get full usage out of, and even then, has limited uses.
The GoCube, despite our misgivings with its “smart” connectivity and price, was still a solid product on its own un-connected merit. The GoDice, however, don’t even have that. Unless you have cash burning a hole in your pocket and a desire for gimmicky plastic, I would give this product a pass.
~ Final Score: 4/10 ~
Review unit provided by Particula. Product images and screenshots taken by reviewer.