‘Threes!’ review: it’s a magic number (iOS)

February 17, 2014

There’s an ease and approachability to Threes that makes one take a step back and wonder how in the world we haven’t seen this game before. There have been many space reduction and matching games in the past, but it’s hard to think of any such game in recent memory as addicting as Threes.

The objective? Slide and combine ‘1’ and ‘2’ numbered tiles to make ‘3’. All values ‘3’ and above are matched and combined to double themselves. The last goal is to not run out of moves in the game’s 4 by 4 tile space while the grid fills up with an additional tile with nearly every swipe. If this simplicity makes non-developers like me jealous for not coming up with this idea, I can only imagine how actual game developers must feel.

You gain a sense a focus when you’re assured that only a limited variety of numbers will be added to the board. It also adds a feeling of comfort; while Threes’ challenge comes from the chance value of a new tile, limiting it to a ‘1’, ‘2’, and divisions of ‘3’ keeps thing unusually simple. And while scores can go well into the tens of thousands of points, the fact that you only need to know that 1 plus 2 equals 3 ensures that anyone can be good at this game.

Some of the depth and strategy is born out of the nature of the game’s tile movement. Each swipe moves every tile in that respective direction (unless a tile cannot move any further), which creates a challenge in how many steps in advance you can plan ahead. That includes resisting the temptation to combine ‘1’s and ‘2’s as soon as possible in the interest of making your grid more organized for the long term. It wouldn’t be far fetched to think that Threes can teach kids about the fundamentals of delayed gratification.

One also shouldn’t underestimate how Threes’ well-thought out art direction adds immensely to its appeal and how it commands extended play sessions. The contemporary number font complements the rounded-corner tiles. To make these tiles look even more endearing, many have been given super thin emoticon-like faces. Giving the numbers ‘1’ and ‘2’ their own specific colors makes them stand out and almost feels like it's too helpful. Not that I’m complaining—the red, white and blue tile colors are visually pleasing, and their light shades smartly minimizes any accidental evocations of American or French flag aesthetics. The music and sound effects also add to Threes' charming design.

The finishing touch to the Threes’ clean look is the absence of any ads or microtransactions. It just makes the game’s price point of $1.99 all the more a steal. The wise decision to omit these features that are normally common in the rest of the mobile games market only adds to the Threes’ awe-inspiring simplicity, the kind that makes you depressed flawless gems like this only pop up once in a while.

  • Threes!
  • Developer: Sirvo
  • Platform: iOS
  • Price: $1.99
  • In-app Purchases? Thankfully, no

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