Back in the day when our brains were just in their formative years and we didn't have a mobile, touchscreen device to entertain us, we could entertain ourselves with nothing but a pencil and a piece of paper from a notebook that should have been used for studying. Tic-Tac-Toe was the favorite in my circle of friends. At that age, it didn't require a long setup for a single game like a round of Dots and Boxes or enough book smarts to make a big enough challenge for a game of Hangman. It was my first introduction to strategy games and a new turn-based puzzler has not only brought it back but they've found a unique way to make a deceptive and entertaining challenge.

Tic-Tactics [Free], the latest from Hidden Variable Studios, injects a big, batch of anabolic steroids into the classic paper game by giving it a bigger playing field and a chance for strategy that looks simple but can be more complex than it appears.

Just like the original Tic-Tac-Toe, the goal is to get either three X's or O's in a row just like the typical nine-grid game but in this game, there are nine grids on the board. So the true goal of the game is to win as many of the grids as possible. The strategy part comes in the brilliant way it expands on the game's basic design.

screen1136x1136-189The player who initiates the game starts by throwing up nine X's or O's on the grids, which the game eliminates on the other grids as they are being picked so the deck can't be stacked in one person's favor before the game even starts. You take turns picking squares on each grid to score three in a row either horizontally, vertically or diagonally but the square that you pick also determines which grid the next player must play on during their turn.

This simple twist on Tic-Tac-Toe is how it offers its unique chance for strategic gameplay. Every time you choose a square, it requires you to think two steps ahead because you're not sure choosing to block or set yourself up for a win. You're also determining where your opponent will make his or her next move. If you're smart enough, you can set yourself up for a win by forcing them to choose a square that would block one of your moves or try to set themselves up for a win. However, they could also be setting you up for a win by backing you into a corner and forcing you to make a move that would set them up for an easy win.

It also has a well thought out design. Turn based games have a tendency to be ignored leaving some matches unfinished if one player forgets that the app is on their phone or tablet. The game gives players a set time limit to respond to each move and gives the win to the other player if time expires so matches don't languish in the system and players don't start random matches with people who forget to play them. It's also got a slick, minimalist design that manages to make X's and O's mildly interesting to look at, no matters how many times you played it.

Its true beauty is in its simplicity. It has a unique strategy element that looks deceptively simple but offers a quite complex system of strategies and moves depending on how far you can think ahead. It's one of those rare strategy games that anyone can pick up and play and find an infinite number of ways to tackle its challenge provided that they know how to play Tic-Tac-Toe.

TouchArcade Rating

  • cloudpuff

    Great take on the usual nought and crosses, like how you can either play gamecentre or Facebook friends. Thanks for posting.

    • DemoEvolved

      Nice visual design. Nice core game. Absence of ai or hot seat play is really a big miss here. Credit system seems destined to cause people to quit the game. This is a game I thought would be nice for mobile, but pacing is just so bad with The waiting for the other player after just doing a single move. It's a lot more fun on the back of a napkin.

      • drlemon

        The credit system is DUMB

      • Charley Price

        Hey DemoEvolved - Charley from Hidden Variable here, thanks for your feedback!

        Just wanted to let you know that there is a Pass and Play mode (bottom of the New Game menu) if you're looking to play in person. We've also reduced the time between moves from 3d to 2d (per popular demand), and are planning to add AI opponents and additional means for more rapid play in the future.

        Just wanted to let you know that we're listening. Keep an eye out for future updates! 🙂

    • Derek Chin

      Hardly original. Concept has been around for awhile. There are even dozens of online and mobile versions already available.

  • anabolicMike

    Thought maybe they really had a tic tac toe game. That woulda been useless lol. You can't win!!! Or lose. If both players know how to play it will always be a tie :/. And I knew that before I watched war games. I do however want to watch war games again. Hmmm. That was when Matthew B was useful. Then came Godzilla and. ....... Inspecto...BLEHhhhhhh..... Gadg.....blarrrrggghhhh.

    Sorry couldn't stop getting sick. I do apologize

    • saansilt

      Hey hey hey!
      Godzilla was a great film!

      This looks like a good game here.

  • Gahe

    Great stuff here. The information and the detail were just perfect.

  • paperwasp

    it would be nice if there was an option to buy the app and forgo the credit system entirely.

    also i'm not sure why you have to do the nine secret moves first - i guess it guarantees a longer game, and/or stops one from taking an early advantage or something?

  • anadin

    Real shame about requiring Facebook though. Will come back to it if that gets changed

  • daear

    This looks exactly like the browser game Tic-Tac-Toe-Ception, released earlier this year. Is it the same group of people?

Tic Tactics Reviewed by Danny Gallagher on . Rating: 4.5