Threes! is the most elegantly designed game I’ve played this year. There aren’t any rough edges to speak of, and it’s exceedingly brilliant in everything it sets out to be. It’s an essential purchase if you consider yourself a fan of puzzles, iOS games, or just cool things in general.
The game takes place on a 4×4 grid, and tosses an assortment of numbered cards onto it when you first begin. Each card is faced with a multiple of three, and any matching number can be combined to create one card equaling the sum of the two. Say you have a couple of number 3 cards in a corner. Slide the two into each other to make one 6 card. Then, once have two 6 cards touching, they can be slid into each other to make a 12, and so on.
It’s incredibly simple to understand the rules, but once you’ve nailed the basics, it becomes something more akin to a game of chess. Every time you move the cards in any direction around the grid, a new card will be thrown onto the board, and can destroy any strategy you had going if you didn’t account for it. The game tells if that card will be a 1, a 2, or a multiple of 3 before it’s tossed in, and the good players will slide cards appropriately to have the new card work to their advantage. You’re tasked with planning each movement before you make it, because once the board fills up and you can’t slide anymore cards into combinations, the game is over.
The game becomes increasingly more intense as it goes on, because you’re desperate to combine those higher numbers you’ve accumulated into combinations, in order to have a huge score by the end of the game. As easy as it is to pick up and play, if you want to have an exceptional run, you’re looking at upwards of 5-15 minutes of playtime per round. It also has the player confirm their name with a simple click at the end of every round, which allows multiple players to use one device and remember individual high scores.
On top of how solid the gameplay is, the game’s aesthetic is dripping with character. Each of the numbered cards is has a face, voice acting, and a character bio, and you unlock more and more of them to see as you manage to reach higher multiples. They each have quick quips to shout as they sit around the grid, and their faces respond to whatever card you’re sliding them towards. The music is just as wonderful, providing a catchy backdrop to the process of sliding the friendly little numbers. The art design is just as well crafted, it’s mostly clean white background, which makes the yellows, reds and blues of the cards pop. Even the App’s icon is great; it’s a colorful smiling square with a 3 on it.
Threes is just a ridiculously pleasant thing, and probably my favorite game of 2014 so far. Talent from Puzzlejuice (Asher Vollmer), Ridiculous Fishing (Greg Wohlwend) Black Ops 2 and Mass Effect 2 (Jimmy Hinson) have come together to make a design miracle. If you’re looking for a go-to study of how to make a good game, head on over to Threes! in the App Store and pick it up for $2 during it’s launch sale. (It’s 33.3333333333% off!)