When I first saw Threes!, with its simple rule set and crisp, flat design I thought it might fall into Mamma bear territory, but upon playing, I quickly discovered there is a lot more depth and strategy to this little unassuming title…it was “just right”.
For those of you who haven’t picked up the game yet, I suppose I should start by telling you how Threes! is played. The game area is divided into a four by four grid and some of these spaces have white cards on them adorned with the number ‘3’, others may have a blue cards with the number one or red cards with the number two. After every move a new card is placed on an open space at the edge of the board and your goal is to keep the board from filling up with unmatchable cards (more about this in a sec).
Players slide the cards around the board combining them with one another to form cards with larger numbers. Two adjacent 3s can be combined together to form a single 6 card, or a 1 and a 2 can be combined to form a 3 card. As you progress through the game these ‘sums’ get larger (two 6s can be joined to form a 12, two 12s to form a 24, etc.) and bigger cards are worth more points at then end of the game.
You move cards simply by swiping your finger in the direction you want all of the existing cards to move. For instance, if you swipe the screen from right to left, the cards in all four rows will shift over one space to the left (if there is an open space for the cards to move) or if a combination of tow adjacent cards can be made. After moving, a new card will enter the edge of playing field, in this case from the right. You can see what color the next one will be (a blue one, a red two, or a white multiple of three) and you know it will enter on the edge of the board opposite the direction you swiped, but you don’t necessarily know on which row or column it will appear.
When I first started playing the game, I somehow completely missed the ‘next piece indicator’, so my first instinct was to play the game in rapid fire, like a speed chess champion, but one who foolishly gives little to no thought to setting up future moves. Obviously this was a very poor strategy and didn’t end well. In fact it only worked out once, and usually resulted in a fairly low score. Needless to say, I started getting a little frustrated as it seemed like you just had to be lucky to be good at Threes!…I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Sure luck does still play a part, but it wasn’t until I noticed that wonderful ‘next piece indicator’ that things started really clicking into place and the balance of the game shifted from a seemingly luck-only fast-paced game to a much slower challenge of wits and careful thought and planning. Soon I was running down the ramifications of each move and thinking multiple moves ahead. AHA! I was HOOKED!
Aside from the brilliant gameplay itself, Threes! has oodles of character, quite literally. Each of the denominations of white “three” cards has been designed as a unique little monster with their own personality, name and catch phrase they utter when formed. Perhaps even more than getting a high score itself, these little guys drive you strive for higher combos just to unlock them all; another of the little touches that makes this game so wonderful.
Threes! is so elegantly simple, yet a bit of a brain burner at the same time. I cannot stop playing this game (nor would I even want to entertain the foolish notion). No sooner do I finish even a 10+ minute game and I’m already ready for another fix. There is nothing quite as rewarding as playing that grid-filling card, only to discover that with a couple of well executed swipes, you’ve managed to clear half of the game board, giving you a little more breathing room and a new lease on the leaderboards. Threes! is a game that is simple enough for anyone to learn, but with enough depth and strategy to keep you coming back for more and more.