March 8, 2014 | by Mike Cosimano
Threes! Review (iOS)
Can't get past 192
Summary: Ingenious, cheap, and delightful, Threes! is a perfect example of mobile gaming done so very right.



I don’t buy the “mobile games are the harbingers of the apocalypse” narrative. That’s silly. Dedicated gaming devices are a place for large, mechanically dense experiences. You couldn’t have Bravely Default on an iPhone, for example. And mobile games excel when they present a simple, yet ingenious mechanic. Like Threes!, for example. I would recommend the sublime Threes! in a heartbeat regardless of platform; the fact that you can get it for two dollars on a little rectangle you carry around everywhere is practically grand theft.

Threes! is a difficult game to describe. You have to play it to “get” it, but I’ll do my best. You have a board that can hold 16 tiles. The game starts with a randomized set of 9 tiles, made up of #1, #2, and #3 tiles. You can combine #1 tiles with #2 tiles, and vice versa. After you combine those tiles, they become a #3 tile, at which point the #3 can only combine with other #3s. At which point, those #3s become a #6, and so on. The catch? When you swipe, everything moves.

Say you swipe to the left. After that, everything moves to the left…everything that can move. If you’ve got two #1 tiles next to each other on a row, that row ain’t goin anywhere if you swipe in that direction. It’s the best kind of wrinkle; the kind that both encourages Zen-like random movement and careful strategization. Every time you swipe, a new tile appears from the direction you swiped. If you run out of possible moves, the game is over.


What makes Threes! so incredible is the way it mixes ingenuity with accessibility. It’s got a simple core mechanic, a number, and anyone with a basic grasp of math can play it. Every time I play this game, I’m amazed someone didn’t make it before now. It’s like that scene in the sci-fi movie where the wacky comedy sidekick comes up with a simple, yet ingenious plan.

That’s not to say the folks behind Threes! are the wacky comedy sidekick of mobile game development. They’re just so clever that they’re operating on a completely different wavelength.

Threes! is also a ridiculously charming game. As you make bigger and bigger multiples, each number will greet you. I’ve never been so attached to numbers in my life. At every turn, Threes! dares you to frown, right down to the eminently hummable soundtrack. Even when I royally messed up, I was actually excited to try again. The game has created a win-win situation: the better I play, the higher my score, but the worse I play, the sooner I get to play again!

At time of writing, it’s only early March, but I’m almost positive that I’ll be playing Threes! all year. It’s addictive, charming, and simply genius. If Apple wants to really kick up the quality of the App Store’s games section, they should make Threes! mandatory reading for potential developers.

It’s just that good.

Mike Cosimano used to be in charge of this place, but now he isn't! Now he's on Destructoid.

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