Where once there was one, there are now two. That’s what happens, you see, when you let digital nature take its course. (Actual nature requires two, which become a three. Or a four. And doesn’t stop there, if the population figures are to be believed.) But in the digital realm, a thing exists, and if it grows strong it becomes two.
And so on, and so forth, until the whole franchise whirls off its own axis and spins itself into destruction, like a washing machine full of hammers.
So, after 2013’s Dots proved to be one of the most addictive mobile puzzle games of the year - and there were hundreds of genuinely addictive puzzle games last year - it's time for a spot more Dot.
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Where once there was a simple one-board game, there is now a basic narrative, involving two dots and a journey. Where once there was only dots, there are now other in-game objects, like anchors and fires and bombs. Where once there was binkety-boink sound effects and down-tuned colours… well, there still are. The basic mechanic is as simple as the last Dots: connect the coloured spots to make them go away, in a limited number of moves. Get them to form a square and all the dots of that colour ping away, giving the OCD side of your brain a tingle of orderly pleasure.
But, you know, there are two games here. One is to clear up the Dots and get the anchors to the bottom of the screen, and advance the little Dots on their journey. But the other, the real game, is to play for as long as possible while not spending any money. The game is to ignore those pop-ups that offer you a dot-destroying bomb for US$0.99, that offer you an extra five swipes for US$0.99. To stand firm against a sea of unhappy face graphics and sound effects encouraging you to pay money to progress more easily. Oh, you’ll lose lives. Eventually you’ll lose all your lives, and you'll have to wait 15 minutes for a new life to spawn, but surely it's possible to play (and enjoy playing) without giving in to the in-app purchase dynamic?
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Dot marks the spot
Is it, though? As you’re hobbling your way through levels, ignoring the proffered bombs and whistles, you begin to get the unsettling feeling that the game might be playing you. With their gentle, charming music and cutesy characters, games of this kind like you to believe that they were hand-coded by a Finnish man in a shed wearing a floppy-eared beanie.
Wrong. People in suits booked meeting rooms to bash out the fundamentals of this game. They talked about Return on Investment, and they called you – yes, you – a ‘User’. And at some point they talked about the non-paying players, and they decided whether or not it should be possible to get beyond a certain level of the game without buying any power-ups.
As you progress, this thought-worm tunnels more and more into your enthusiasm. You start getting cavalier with your swipes. Levels are failed, lives are lost and the the pop-up offering you fresh air for the price of a Kit-Kat is stabbed away rather than proudly cancelled.
At some point you close the app, and some time later you swipe away the notification that you've earned some more lives just by waiting, and some time later someone asks you if you’ve played that new TwoDots game. And you shrug, and say that you played it "for a bit". You don't tell them that you wrestled with it, and it infuriated you, but it didn't get your US$0.99. And the game swells up and becomes ThreeDots anyway, regardless of your petty, fun-foiling fussing. You onion.
DOWNLOAD NOW: TwoDots from iOS
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