Rubik's Cube Shape Mods
In this section I will present some Rubik's Cube twisty puzzle shape mods which all have the classic 3x3x3 core mechanism in the inside but from outside they seem to be something else. These puzzles on the attached picture have all the same internal core mechanism, though they have different shapes and solutions.
To solve these you have to learn a new algorithm which rotates the centre pieces. On a classic cube you don't have to worry about the rotation of a centre piece because the faces have solid colours, but in these cases the centre piece can be textured.
Turn two centers 90 degrees at the same time:
F Clockwise, U Counterclockwise : ( M' U M U' ) x 5
F Counterclockwise, U Clockwise : ( M' U' M U ) x 5
To turn the U center 180o : ( R U R' U ) x 5
Or do the T-Permutation twice:
( R U R' U' R' F R2 U' R' U' R U R' F' ) x 2
The Mirror Cube (or mirror blocks) is probably the most popular 3x3 variation out there. Reflective gold or silver stickers cover the pieces of this shape shifting cube. While on the classic Rubik's Cube six colours marked the solved state, in this case you can tell by shape and heights. A face is solved when it's flat and all pieces are on the same height with nothing sticking out. In solved position the distance between the core of the cube and the particular faces varies. Once you have found where a piece belongs you have to solve it the same way as the Rubik's Cube. There are 2x2x2 and 4x4x4 Mirror Cubes as well.
The Ghost Cube is an iconic and very difficlult shape shifter. In the solved state you have to first misalign the layers to make it fully functional. What makes it confusing at the first sight is that the solved state we want to achieve is not a cube, but a cube with the slightly shifted layers. It is recommended to familiarize yourself with this shape before scrambling it completely and trying to solve it.
The Fisher Cube was made in the mid eighties by Tony Fisher and it was his first custom puzzle. Maybe this is the first Rubik's shape mod ever, so we're talking about a real classic. It has a perfect cube shape but basically it's a Rubik's Cube twisted 45o around a central axis, making 4 edge pieces become centre pieces, 4 centre pieces become corner pieces and so on. If you can solve the classic 3x3x3 you can't have problems with this one, just pay attention to the parity.
Applying custom stickers on the cube can make it a new challenge. These cubes are known as picture cubes. This Earth Cube for example is not just a Rubik's Cube but some kind of jigsaw puzzle too, where you can put the pieces next to each other only if you have some serious geographic knowledge. Usually you have to orient the centre pieces if the stickers have patterns using the algorithm presented above.
YJ Heart Puzzle
A heart shaped Rubik's Cube can be a nice Valentines gift to a puzzle maniac. On the picture is a YJ Heart Puzzle, which has a very good quality, it moves smooth and is cheap (5$) and it doesn't have any stickers on it. The only annoying thing about it is because of the symmetric heart shape namely the opposite pieces are so similar in height and shape that you don't even know if you put a piece in the right spot or not. You need a microscope to distinguish two similar pieces. This little detail can make the whole puzzle hardly to enjoy.
The pillowed Mastermorphix is another classic 3x3x3 mod. There are 4-coloured and a 1-coloured versions too. This puzzle has 4 triangle shaped centre pieces (originally corners on the Rubik's Cube) which don't have to be oriented like all the other pieces. If you reach the last layer and one corner piece remains unsolved then go back to a triangle centre piece and rotate that so you can finish the solution of the Mastermorphix. Probably you will have to use the algorithm presented at the beginning of the page to rotate the last centre piece.
3x3x3 QJ Dodecahedron
This 14-sided puzzle has 2 pentagon and 12 trapezoidal faces. It is produced by QJ and it changes shape with every move. It's common with the classic 3x3x3 that you don't need to orient the centres. There are two triangle shaped corners which don't need to be oriented either. The interesting thing about it is that there are some four-coloured edge pieces. This puzzle is certainly a nice collection piece.
The Axis Cube or also known as Axel Cube is a very intimidating looking mod when it is scrambled (as you can see on the first picture of this page). In solved position it is a cube, but it changes shape with every move. In this case you have to orient every single piece, there are no exceptions.