Two’s company, but Threes is a videogame about crowds, as the famous saying goes. It’s right too, and a strange coincidence that a phrase should be in such common parlance decades before games existed, let alone Threes on iOS. Hmm.

Threes is a game where a small four by four grid steadily has spots occupied by numbers, and it’s your job to merge them together lest all spots are filled and your game’s over. You’re free to manage the crowds at your leisure, and no time limits will impede your thought process, but each move you make sees another number pop into the grid until you’re overwhelmed. Swipes in each of the four cardinal directions will see every number on the grid move in unison until halted by a wall or surrounding numbers, and that’s what you use to your advantage; should twos collide with ones, or the same multiples of three collide with one another, they merge and their values add.

Like many puzzle games, an ungainly text description becomes elegant and simple in practice with a brief tutorial, and then you’re on your way to one of the most destructively addictive experiences in quite some time. In fact, I’ve been playing Threes for over a week now, and am just this minute writing this review, simply because a quick dabble ‘for reference’ leads to an intense score chasing session, thanks to Game Center leaderboard and challenge setting functionality that’s neatly pushed in your face, and a gallery of your best attempts hung on the main menu screen to tease yourself with.

It’s hard to nail down precisely what makes Threes so utterly compulsive (if one could, all games would be like this and we’d all happily reject loved ones, work and sustenance to receive radiation from our phones until death). Its number matching mechanic and grid based play is mildly similar to original iPhone puzzle obsession Drop7, though unlike that game with its dour greyness, Threes has a good deal more charm. Each numbered tile on the grid has a little face, and a little personality to go with it, chirpy 12s chattering with sassy sixes and monstrous 192s. When like numbers sit next to one another, waiting to be gloriously combined (and yet, oddly sacrificed in the process) they seem genuinely delighted, and their friendly jibing at you to take a turn you’re mulling over manages to strike just the right balance between endearing and annoying.

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Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory is just as common an occurrence as the other way around. Things went to pot just after this shot.

Numbers are only half the story in Threes though, and managing the space you have is of equal, if not more importance than performing light mental arithmetic. While neophytes will be tempted to rush through their games, going for the quick fix of matching whichever numbers sit closest to one another, more seasoned players will take advantage of the lack of a time limit here. The next tile indicator is of vital importance, saying whether you’ll have a one, two or some (but not which) multiple of three enter the frame next, and the smart will hold off on an easy match so that things play their way later. As with the very best puzzle games, there’s a massive joy in being one move away from the end in Threes only to be able to perform a massive chain reaction of matches, and unlike in some less cognitive puzzlers, your success is largely down to your spatial reasoning, and rarely a matter of luck.

It’s this teasing of both the numerical and the spatial that brings to mind games like PS1 dice roller Devil Dice/Xi, and is probably the biggest factor in the game’s favour. By poking at both hemispheres of the brain, it seems expertly, almost chemically produced to challenge and please any personality, and as such deserves every success, and every brain lost to its bewitching spell. It’s a slight experience, bereft of extra game modes and trinkets, though that makes Threes all the more effective, an uncluttered game about removing clutter. Not a crowd, Threes is instead amongst the very best of company.

KAIJU VERDICT:

3 Pops: Exceptional.  A significant cut above the crowd. Though flawed or otherwise not necessarily for everyone, it does things other games in the genre do not, or tries something new with a great deal of success.
Review code supplied by Asher Vollmer

 

About The Author

Gamer, Educator, Writer of Stuff, wrestler of professionals (sometimes)