Threes App Review: A cute, casual and challenging puzzler

Threes trailer

Threes is a unique game that mixes math with matching pairs gameplay. Threes is simple, yet surprisingly addictive and the charm of the game will ensure that you keep playing. Developers Asher Vollmer, Greg Wohlwend, and Jimmy Hinson describe Threes as the “tiny puzzle that grows on you” and it’s easy to see why.

The premise of Threes is straightforward. You are presented with a grid containing numbered tiles and have to create the highest number tile you can before your board is filled and no further moves are possible. You must swipe left, right, up and down, to combine 1 and 2 tiles to make 3s, combine 3s to make 6s, combine 6s to make 12s and so on. With each swipe, a new tile is added to the board meaning that you need to combine tiles at a rate that is as fast as they appear in order to avoid your board filling up and the game ending.

However, swiping tiles moves all tiles in that direction (providing there is room to move) meaning you really have to think before you make a move. A preview of the next tile to be added to the board is also visible at the top of the screen, adding a layer of strategy to the game as you plan your moves out. In Threes, it really helps to think ahead and make smart moves to avoid your board filling up prematurely. Fortunately, Threes does help you out in this respect by giving you the next tile preview and also allowing you to slow-swipe in any direction to preview the move and giving you the opportunity to change your mind and reverse the swipe.

When the game ends you are given a total which is made up of a value attributed to each number tile. The larger your number tiles are, the more they are worth and the higher your score will be.

Threes tutorial

Picking up and playing Threes is made easy by the in-game tutorial which outlines the game mechanics as well as giving you some useful tips to prolong your game. On your first few games you’ll likely speed through, swiping quickly and ending your game with a score that could have been easily improved with a bit of forethought.

Playing Threes becomes increasingly difficult the larger your numbers become as pairing becomes much harder. That’s where strategy comes into play and the game becomes truly challenging and it is this challenge, in my opinion, that makes the game so addictive.

Threes characters

Now, if the thought of a math-based game has you recoiling in horror, it is important to note that the game isn’t simply a boring, tile-based math equation. Instead, each tile is brought to life with some color and character. Each number tile has a name – 3 is called a Trin, 6 a Thumbert, 12 a Treycee, and so on – and each has a little bio ranging from “quite sassy” to “A little goofy, but he gets by”. Further, each tile has a small, animated smiley face below the number that changes and reacts to the gameplay adding to the fun, whimsical feel.

With the sound on, you’ll realise that each character also has a little greeting when they first show up on the board. While these are minor details, they clearly show the level of detail and polish applied to this product and help to keep the gameplay from straying into the repetitive.

Threes scores

The music itself can become a little tiresome and can grate on you, especially if you are hooked into playing game after game trying to beat your high score. This isn’t a major problem though, as it can be turned off in the game settings (or you can play the game with your phone on silent).

The wrap up

The good: Simple yet addictive gameplay that really grabs and challenges you. Cute characters that keep the game from being a boring math puzzle. No pesky in-app purchases.

The bad: Music can be repetitive and borders on irritating after a while.

The verdict: Threes is a really polished product. The gameplay is dead simple yet offers a level of strategy and challenge that will keep you playing. The game is casual enough to play for a few minutes yet challenging enough to keep you playing for much longer. Threes for iPhone and iPad is available now for $1.99/£1.49 on the App Store. Check it out and let me know what you think (and if you can beat my high score of 3,570)!

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