Good things come in Threes, and it’s both maddening and enthralling. I’m talking about the new iOS mobile game from developer Sirvo, which combines Sudoku-like puzzle mechanics with Candy Crush-style matching for an experience that’s all too addictive.
How addictive? I opened it up to start my airplane ride to San Francisco from Toronto this week, fully intending to put it down after a few minutes and put on a movie. But I didn’t put it back down again until we had to turn off our devices to prepare for landing.
That’s a solid six hours of matching up multiples of threes to rack up higher-number tiles and higher scores. It’s not an experience I’ve had with many mobile-first games, which tend to be fine distractions, but lack the power to draw me in for extended gaming sessions in the way something like a Skyrim or a Final Fantasy can.
The mechanics alone aren’t enough to explain the draw of Threes; the mathematical matching is compelling, addictive and so simple as to be understood by all, yet also just sophisticated enough that it stands out from the typical matching games that depend solely on pairing up tokens. But the careful attention to design, animations, character creation, and sound all combines to make sure that each interaction is so satisfying you never want to leave the app.
If, like me, you have a tendency to fall into deep dark gaming keyholes when you find something you like, then you are probably familiar with the concept of a video game hangover: So-called because the physical effects resemble those that come after a night of heavy drinking, the video game hangover takes effect after an extended session without breaks, food or water. As I’ve aged, I’ve developed a lower tolerance for both kinds of hangovers, but with Threes I find myself happy to suffer through.
This isn’t the first time the developers behind Threes have captured my heart and mind – creators Greg Wohlwend and Asher Vollmer previously created Ridiculous Fishing, a longtime addiction with a unique art style and absurdly engaging premise, as well as Puzzlejuice and Hundreds. You don’t get much closer to finding a hit factory on mobile like this from an indie dev team. Threes is a hit among hits, however, because it has the potential to become the next Sudoku or crosswords, but with digital-first roots, which means it doesn’t have to sacrifice anything to adapt itself to our pocketable devices.
The game sits in the shadow of the late, dearly beloved Flappy Bird, with its infuriating difficulty level and derivative graphics and gameplay, but it’s the slow burn to the Bird’s short, bright flare and fizzle.