I feel like as a developer you can go broke attending conferences, buying books, and listening to seminars on how to make the "perfect" game, when, in my eyes, it has always come down to simplicity. The best, most universally loved games on the App Store with rare exception check these three boxes:

  • The core gameplay element can be explained in a single simple sentence.
  • The premise is familiar and approachable by everyone, regardless of gaming background.
  • High production values, even in simplicity, with no stone left unturned when it comes to interface elements that can be refined or polished.

Greg Wohlwend and Asher Vollmer's Threes! [$2.99] does all this and more. Here's your single-sentence premise: "Slide blocks to combine factors of three." It's a concept so simple that upon initial inspection you find yourself wondering how such a thing could even be more compelling than learning multiplication tables, but, oh, how wrong you would be. As exhibited by this similarly simple gif, things get tricky quick:


So, as you can see, the basic idea here is you take a "1" block and a "2" block, mash 'em together, and end up with a "3" block. Do that to create another "6" block, mash those two "6" blocks together and end up with a "12" block. Repeat. The clever part here is that when you swipe, you're not just moving one block at a time, instead you're moving all the blocks together. Blocks slide if they can, combine if they can, or just stay stuck where they are if there's four blocks in a row that can't move over. Much like the turn-based roguelike Hoplite, these incredibly simple mechanics combine into something truly wonderful and predictable, if only you possess the mental fortitude to predict it.

Games of Threes! quickly escalate to an epic dance of block management, as much like the classic puzzlers we grew up on, you're given a hint of what's coming next in the form of a red "2" block, a blue "1" block, or a white numbered block. When you slide the blocks in a direction, whatever block is next slides in from the opposite direction, leaving you with a shocking amount of things to consider each time you place your thumb on the screen. For each flawless movement, without some intense analysis, there's also an equal chance that you'll accidentally make an unintended combination and in turn wind up with a block you can't immediately using junking up one side of the game board.

It's all part of the genius that goes into Threes!, and if you watch the above video of me playing the game for the first time during my stream yesterday, you'll see that big number tunnel vision is a real thing. It's very easy to get worked up to score huge matches, which in turn result in massive points, and as you desperately try to build another "192" block to mash together with the existing one on your game board, everything can go pear shaped if you don't maintain razor sharp focus on what each movement is going to do, managing all blocks at once instead of focusing on the two you're trying to match.

Once you finally run out of moves, your score is tallied up based on the values of the existing blocks on the board. (For more info on the scoring, check out this post in our forums). Gameplay doesn't have to stop there though, as Threes! seems to juice absolutely every worthwhile feature out of Game Center, as you can review all your scores and in-game statistics, then use these to send Game Center challenges to friends.

appfeaturedWe've got the first two boxes checked in simple premise and universally approachable, and Threes! doesn't at all slouch on the third. The game plays with a level of finesse that you typically don't see outside of software developed in-house by Apple. Sliding blocks is as fluid as navigating your home screen in iOS 7. The calm and catchy soundtrack by Jimmy Hinson fits the game perfectly. Each block has its own subtle personality, conveyed through tiny faces at their base as well as the voice each block has. In other words, definitely play this game with the sound on if you can.

The menus are navigated the same way as playing the game itself, with simple swipes and without any kind of harsh "Game Over" screen, Threes! seemingly invites you to play it for eternity. Following the stream last night, I stayed up playing it until around 3:00 AM, in a marathon play session that I haven't felt compelled to do in what feels like far too long.

In the end, here's Threes! in three sentences: Threes! is about as close as it gets to a perfect mobile game. Threes! is a game you need on every iOS device you own. Threes! is a game you need to tell your iPhone owning non-gamer-but-plays-some-games friends about.

TouchArcade Rating

  • JCho133

    This is the best casual game I have ever played. Tops Puzzlejuice by miiiiiiles

    • lavenders2

      This game and puzzlejuice arent even remotely the same thing though. Puzzlejuice is a word based tetris like game where you have to make words and use powerups. This game is a numbers game where you slide tiles to make multiples of 3. Very different games!

  • Bones00

    Perfect FIVE stars!

    • LarryWP

      I agree. Excellent game.

  • Phoenix24

    Agree with this review 100%. Not played such an addictive puzzler since drop7 and that is going back some time. Perfect pick up and play game, simple but very addictive.

  • alex13111

    I also love this game. Perfect casual. 5 stars. I highly recommend it.

  • dazzlemi

    I have to say ... this is definitely a MUST HAVE game ! I just can't seem to get enough of it. VERY addictive as others have said.

  • sam the lion

    Yeah it's dope. I just got my first 192 and I feel like a boss.

    • falco

      I have 816 beat that

  • mclifford82

    I don't think you have an appreciation for how complex "simple" can be. I mean, if it were actually simple, wouldn't everyone be capable of it?

    I'll pick it up as it looks interesting, but I guarantee it'll be free soon enough.

  • falco

    I bought this game and I'm loving it!

  • Jazzpha

    I didn't need to read anything other than Vollmer, Wohlwend and Hinson to know I was buying this, but the rest of the review was solid all the same. Nice to know my faith in the devs' abilities still isn't misplaced.

  • InkyTheGhost

    A perfect review for a perfect game.

  • armilla

    Loved puzzlejuice and was really looking forward to this - I bought it but haven't had a chance to play it just yet (can't wait!).

    • armilla

      Oh man. Just got 960 on my first game and feel the addiction rooting.

      • falco

        900 now really close ahhh 🙂

  • Fangbone

    Between this and Spell Quest it's a puzzle game extravaganza !!

  • thestapler

    Is there any "race against the clock" aspect?

    I always feel like I'm in the minority but the timed element of puzzle games takes out a lot of the relaxed problem-solving and just makes it frustrating. Anyone else feel the same?

    • Fangbone

      No race against the clock in this

    • ohfish

      I am 100% with you. These games without timers just let me unwind and have a blast. This game in particular. I can just aimlessly swipe or I can methodically plan and aim for a high score.

  • bacon-N-eggs

    Feels a lot like a rogue like, I love it!!!! No rushing, can play our own music or podcast in the background... So perfect!!! Play to unwind before going to sleep, in line at the store, anywhere. Always nice to see a simple slide interface that works this well, also vertical play is always nice for one handed play. Well done, went right on my front screen!

  • ejfarraro

    Looks really neat; Sirvo -- are you planning to release for Android as well? Debating if I should buy for iPad or wait for a possible Android release.

  • bones boy

    First BBBBombs! and now this. 2014 is good so far for the casual gamer.

  • StealthDawg

    This game is so sick. Just a pure gem. I scored 1,554 on my second game. Couple of 96's on the board. This game is so rewarding.

  • Galois

    Lots of fun. It'll definitely cause some, er, productivity issues at work for weeks.

  • robfractures

    Excellent game. Up there with Drop7 and Eighty-Eight. Best score so far 10,038

    • Papa Deuce

      I thought my 7511 was good.... But no.

  • Chq

    What's the ratio between skills and luck?

    Greetz Chris

    • Salt Abdullah

      Dunno - ask that bum who wrote Outliers, Malcolm GladPoo.

  • Aero WK

    I'd say 70/30.

  • Salt Abdullah

    Best app to come in a loooooooong time. They got my money the minute it hit the app store. I wish more devs would make games as innovative as these guys did.

  • RampageDeluxe

    It looks like this guy turned my OCD into a game. I'm afraid to play.

  • oneironaut

    I pirated this game (I have my reasons). Then i played about 30 seconds. Then I immediately deleted the pirated version and paid for the game. It's just that good. Always happy to support dedicated developers. And I am ALWAYS happy to throw my money at Vollmer and Wohlwend. Not familiar with Hinson but this is a name I'll be keeping my eye on in the future.

  • Papa Deuce

    I dunno.... It looks boring to me. I love word / puzzle games so I would think this game would appeal to me but it doesn't.

    • Papa Deuce

      I am updating... I broke down and bought it. Better than I thought, but not awesome.... 3.5,stars out of 5.

Threes! Reviewed by Eli Hodapp on . Rating: 5