Developer: Asher Vollmer and Greg Wohlwend
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini, iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
Controls Rating: ★★★★★
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★★
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★★

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

Threes, from Puzzlejuice creator Asher Vollmer and Greg Wohlwend, artist of Ridiculous Fishing and Hundreds, is the first great mobile game of 2014.

The goal of Threes is to match together tiles on a four-by-four board by sliding them around. 1 and 2 tiles can be matched together to make 3 tiles, a pair of 3 tiles can be matched together to make 6s, 6s make 12s, 12s make 24s, and so on. Each tile starting with the 3s has a point value that is three times as much as the previous tile, so the game rewards making larger numbers.

Threes-4Threes-7But aye, the rub comes in where tiles are all moved simultaneously in one of the four cardinal directions – if one row or column is blocked off, then only the tiles that can move will do so. As well, a new tile will come in from behind the direction that was moved: moving tiles left will cause a new tile to appear in a random cell in the right-most column. The game ends when the board is full and no more moves can be made.

Thus, the game becomes about not running out of moves. 1s and 2s are best served being made into 3s as soon as possible because 3s are a bit easier to control. Moves that can make multiple matches are desirable because they effectively extend the game. Not letting tiles be blocked is important. There’s a lot to consider and take in at any given point: could one move that’s useful now be useful at some point down the road?

This is definitely one of those “easy to learn, difficult to master” games, and it really just gets its hooks in to no end. The controls with their simple swipes work wonderfully on iPhones and iPads alike, and just feel great. It’s easy to tweet scores and to see the end boards of previous best efforts. It’s a fun game and mechanically sound.

Threes-1Threes-3But really, the personality of Threes is a large part of what makes it so memorable: the way that each three is its own character, and reacts to actions in different ways. The little faces and voices are really subtle details, and ones that can be all but ignored by turning the sounds off, but they make the game feel like something special – like playing with characters instead of just moving numbers around the board. They’re still number-based tiles, but they’re also not in another way. As well, getting higher and higher numbers feels like unlocking a new character – which it really is. The music does a wonderful job at setting a playful but thoughtful mood to the game.

Saying that a puzzle game is worth playing because of the experience may seem a bit silly on paper, but truly, that is the case with Threes. From its impeccable design to the way it forms an emotional connection that won’t let go, Threes is utterly flawless.


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