By: Eric Thomas
My grandma Elenor smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. She spent days at her kitchen table, a curl of smoke lifted lazily from the ashtray full of spent butts, Black Velvet on the rocks always within reach, eyes on the shoebox-sized tube TV across the room. Her house was pitch black at most times, thin threads of light cut through the acrid, murky darkness—thick curtains were her way to save money on heat and air conditioning—a pair of mouse sized dogs ran around and barked randomly, every inch of fabric in her house smelled like smoke. As I became aware of the anti-smoking campaigns in the commercial breaks on my cartoons, I asked her once, “Grandma, why do you smoke?”
“Honey,” chin to chest and looking grave, “never, ever start.”
I feel similar about an iPhone game called “Threes!”
My iPhone and iPad are both calling my name. I had to hide them under a blanket in my bedroom to create a moat between me and this game. As I sit here and type, my hands are shaking. I’ve turned around twice and looked at my bedroom door and I’ve thought about it. All of my thoughts are concentrated on the black and twisted heart of the person who told me he scored over 3,000 on one board. It’s all I can think about. A higher score. I might have to put my iPhone and iPad in the car.
For all the panting, ridiculous hype that swirled around Flappy Birds—which left its creator a smoking, repentant mess in front of a Forbes reporter after he yanked the app from the internet, his conscious sweating with guilt because he created an addictive app game—that game is nothing but a rudimentary distraction when held up in comparison to “Threes!” This latest opiate for the masses is a swipe-based numeric puzzle game, available for $1.99 on the iTunes Store. You match multiples of three on a mildly Sudoku inspired grid. Extremely easy interface, beautiful design, and mindless entertainment swirl into a game that actually rivals Tetris as the kind of activity / game you can lose hours playing.
It has that elusive “one more” quality like all good iOS games, and drugs, but it’s not immediately recognizable as a challenging game. You can do decently well swiping the screen at random, so when someone posts their high score, you convince yourself that this is possible, only to be sucked into the intuitive colors and numbers, hours devoured and you spend all of your time checking over your shoulder, thinking about that score, how you can totally top it and—sorry, I’ve got to concentrate on this blog.
The game hits several sweet spots at the same time. It’s amazing to look at, with a flat design that moves seamlessly across the screen. It doesn’t suffer any hiccups on late model iOS devices (I have a iPhone 5 and one of last year’s iPads) and offers a non-invasive soundtrack that adds to the experience. When the numbers join, they greet each other and say things like “’Sup” or “Hello!” or “Hi there!” In fact, the “’Sup” sounds spookily like Lions quarterback Matt Stafford. It’s probably not him, but it really sounds like him. I should go play the game, to make sure about that. Let me check to see if—
Okay, they’re in the car now. “Threes!” is so addictive that it makes you question the very nature of addiction itself. Could someone go to rehab over a game? Could there be seedy “Threes!” dens? Can you fall down the junkie spiral just by playing a video game? If that were possible, this game could put you there. It’s a blast of pure pleasure, delivered at a purity you don’t see in games these days. It’s ingeniously designed, fun without ever being taxing, challenging without ever being unwieldy, easy without being repetitive. It’s Tetris.
The game costs $1.99, and in exchange it NEVER ASKS YOU TO BUY ANYTHING EXTRA. Sorry for the all-caps, but I couldn’t help myself. The worst development in the last few years of games in the non-stop, never ending attempts to monetize them. It’s refreshing to play a game that isn’t CONSTANTLY asking for your credit card. I finally deleted Running with Friends after they added corporate logos to the items you picked up—not because of the logos themselves, but because the added graphics led to numerous slowdowns.
Do I recommend this game? How can I not? It’s awesome. Just download it after you’ve done everything you need to do for the week. Worth it. Totally worth it. Challenge me in the Apple Game Center: ericthomas810