“Ooh,” you might think on firing up Twinfold and squashing two cards with faces together, “this is like Threes!” But although there’s a resemblance, you soon realise Twinfold is something else entirely. Beyond the swipe-and-merge mechanics from the older game, things are taken in radical new directions.
In play, Twinfold comes across more like a Roguelike – procedurally generated turn-based strategy, with plenty of dungeon crawling. This all happens within single-screen mazes that regularly shift and change as you collect, grapple with and master an increasingly large collection of power-ups.
That all this remains coherent and, above all, enjoyable, is down to seriously great game design.
Go for gold
The basics involve the aforementioned face squashing. Mash golden idols together and their value doubles. You know the drill. Only here, unlike in Threes!, you control a distinct character who’s also moving around – and who has limited energy reserves. Bang into a wall and energy is depleted. Eat an idol and your energy level goes up, along with your XP. And then a bunch of other things happen, too.
The maze and its hazards randomly rebuild whenever you eat a second idol. Then the idols reappear, but at half their previous values. Monsters start to spawn and chase you around. These need dealing with swiftly, because if they get near enough, they’ll kill you in the face.
Fortunately, foes signpost their next move before you take your own; and, like the idols, enemies move as you do. This means you can strategise by, say, unsportingly dropping a monster down a hole before it gets near you, or realising its next move is to the right, and lining things up to make the dimwit smack its stupid face into a wall.
Complicating matters further, there are the power-ups. You select from three options whenever the XP meter fills. These imbue you with capabilities such as freezing a monster, making you immune to pits, and smashing walls. It’s a lot to take in, and even the tutorial gives up halfway through, noting it can’t be bothered to explain everything.
This could be a death-knell for a game with such hidden depths, but it works for Twinfold. The title revels in its mix of immediacy and bafflement, taking a decidedly old-school approach. We’re so used on mobile to hand-holding at every step of the way. By contrast, Twinfold is about discovery and surprise, providing scope for evolving strategies. It’s down to you to figure out how to manipulate enemies, balance risk and reward, and make sacrifices that let you live for another round.
The only downside is the procedurally generated nature of the game can irk when you’re left in an impossible situation. But often, you realise it could have been avoided if you’d been smarter. Moreover, this allows Twinfold to be limitless in replay value. That’s just as well, because once it grabs hold, you’ll be playing for a very long time.