Could you imagine a world in which your high school math teacher’s greatest dream came true? Kids and adults across the nation spending their leisure time adding numbers on their phones instead of shifting around jellybeans. It’s a well-wish that might not seem so far-fetched anymore, and the Mr. Duffy’s of the world have Threes! to thank — a beautifully designed puzzle for iOS and Android with a basic, yet totally addicting premise.
According to its creators, you can learn the points-based math game in just a minute: Players need to match numbered tiles so that they add up to three (1 + 2 = 3, etc), or make multiples of three by merging matching tiles labeled three or higher (6 + 6 = 12, etc). New tiles are added to the pale blue grid as you swipe the screen up or down and side to side, but that’s not the only reason why Threes! is billed as “a tiny puzzle that grows on you.”
Since the learning curve is so low, not being able to rise to the elementary challenge creates Flappy Bird-levels of anxiety, and leaves you almost always ready to come back for more. Online reviews agree, calling the game “maddening,” “your next iOS obsession,” and more poetically “at once nicotine and soul food, magnificent and deadly.” This is the stuff Sherlock sees when he closes his eyes — intersecting numbers! Flipping data-filled tiles! And just as modern minds have elevated that character to hunky hero status, the creators of Threes! have succeeded in making math playful, engaging, and thanks to the design, downright sexy.
The clean layout becomes an interactive interface the second you swipe. Sound effects react to your moves against a sunshine-y soundtrack. Confetti bursts to celebrate your milestone matches. And high numbers are given quirky names and backstories (Tile 96 is Traven, “a curious herbivore that only eats potato chips.” WHAT!).
But we’re not the only ones who think the pastel-tiled game is strikingly beautiful and unexpectedly charming — the character-rich app was given an honorable mention for Excellence in Design at this year’s Independent Games Festival. A recognition well-deserved, if you ask us. ‘Cause I think we can all feel a little bit better (smarter?) about admitting that our latest morning commute obsession involves crunching numbers instead of crushing candy.