Strange as it sounds, one of the most important numbers in Threes is a seven. This is one of the first games to embrace the clean, simple look of iOS 7. It’s elegant, but does the game live up to the look?
That depends on how much you like numbers. Threes is an advanced version of the classic sliding number puzzle. The game presents a four-by-four grid covered with number tiles, and you use swipe gestures to move the tiles up, down, left and right. All the tiles move at once, and you can only move a tile if there’s an empty space for it to move into.
What’s different from the standard puzzle is that you’re combining numbers instead of rearranging them into a particular order. You start out with a scattering of 1s, 2s, and 3s. If you push a 1 and a 2 together, you get a 3. Push two 3s together and you get a 6. Two 6s make a 12, and so on. The more tiles you combine, the higher your score gets.
However, there’s a catch. Each time you move the tiles, the game adds a tile. This gives you new tiles to combine, but it also clogs up the board. The more numbers you have on the board, the harder it is to combine two identical tiles, and the less room you have to maneuver. When you have no legal moves left, the game is over.
Threes fits firmly into the category of “easy to learn, hard to master.” The game has a short, clear tutorial, and most players will pick up the basics in seconds. Playing well takes a little longer. It’s easy to swipe yourself into a corner and leave yourself with nothing but game-ending moves. Staying alive long enough to combine 192s and 384s requires concentration and the ability to think several moves ahead.
It also requires a taste for the abstract. The puzzle is engaging, and the developers have added a lot of personality to the game. The soundtrack is cheerful, each new tile is introduced with a hipster name and personality profile, and the edges of the tiles have animated faces that react to nearby matches. The game is charming– but if you don’t like pushing numbers around, you’re not going to get a lot out of Threes.
If you enjoy the basic premise, though, then Threes will keep you entertained. The small grid keeps each game short, but there are enough tiles that you’ll never feel like you’re seeing the same position over and over again. There’s plenty of challenge, and when the game ends, it’s hard to resist the urge to hit restart and try just one more time for a higher score. Threes may be “a tiny game about matching numbers,” but it’s got a lot of fun hiding in its simple grid.