by Matthew Byrd1
The Sanctity of the Puzzle Game is Secure Once Again
Considering the wealth of “me-too!” Candy Crush clones out there, it’s becoming harder and harder to trust puzzle games. Whereas the genre was once seen as the most reliable source for great pick up and play experiences, it’s now a minefield of shady free-to-play models, and generally uninspired design. The entire concept has become so toxic in the eyes of many, that it would take a game of undeniable brilliance, and clear design integrity, to make informed gamers stand up and take notice.
It would take a game like Threes!
Threes! is easier explained by a minute of playing it, but essentially it’s a game about combining numbered tiles to create 3’s, and then matching identical numbers to make larger multiples of 3. For example, if I have a 1 and a 2 tile, I’d need to combine them to make a 3. That 3 would then have to be paired with another 3 to make a 6. I’d then need to combine that with another 6 to make a 12…and so on. It sounds simple, but the catch is that when swipe to make a move, you move the entire board and not individual pieces. The only way to combine tiles is to essentially “trap” them, and ensure your move gives them nowhere else to go. That mechanic, combined with the relatively small 4X4 board you have to work with, means that space is at a premium in Threes! That’s important to keep in mind because when you run out of moves, the game is over.
Threes! is certainly addictive, but to be honest even the most halfhearted of puzzle games can be addictive for at least a short time. What separates Threes! from the pack then?
Well for one thing, it’s quite intelligent. Not intelligent in the sense it’s complicated, but rather intelligently designed in a way that allows for someone looking for a quick time-killer, and someone looking to take the game seriously, to get separate, but equal, enjoyment out of it. In both cases, the player will reach a point of zen where they’ll start seeing six moves ahead, and can only watch as their swipes go by with such ferocity, they’ll swear they were the product of some internal phantom the game has created.
Yet as sublime as Threes! is on a mechanical level, its greatest asset may just be its personality. Much like Ridiculous Fishing, the designers of Threes! managed to squeeze a surprising amount of charm out of such a simple concept. A hum-worthy theme song presides over the entire affair, while cute sound bites accentuate your every success. Even the game pieces are fully formed characters, complete with unique visuals, quips and bios that appear the first time you unlock a new tile.
All that combines to create an experience that is instantly appealing on a fundamental level, and made even better by the fact that the game’s very fair $1.99 purchase price, is the absolute last dime it will ask from you.
Unfortunately Threes! is hindered somewhat by the way it handles tile drops. While you are able to see which piece is coming next, there is no real way to tell where exactly it’s going to drop, as the game instead puts it in a random empty space, opposite of whichever direction you made your last move. This will cause many a rage quit among more intense players, as it makes even the most well-thought out strategies subject to a healthy dose of luck. While an element of chance is necessary for puzzle games, Threes! abuses the privilege at times by forcing players to think ahead to get truly high scores, then prevents them from being able to truly do so.
You’ll be hard pressed to let that bother you too much, though, as at the end of the day Threes! is pick up and play perfection. It may not shatter your perceptions of what a puzzle game is, but it will remind you just how great they can be.
Is It Hardcore?
Summary: Every gamer needs a great puzzle game on their device, and there are few better than Threes!