Threes!: The Best Single Swipe Puzzle Game on iOS

Before I begin, I’d like to give a shout-out to Sean Korzdorfer on Twitter, who recommended the game the moment it was released. As I said in my tweet after my first game, I really love this game and can’t stop thinking about it.

Threes! is a tiny puzzle about matching numbers

The Tiny Game that Grows On You

Threes! is a puzzle game based on numbers. The game starts by showing you a random set of numbered tiles spread across its 4×4 board. Your task is to merge the numbers while adhering to the following rules:

  • 1 + 2 = 3
  • n + n = 2*n, for n > 2

Simply swipe using one finger to any of the cardinal directions (up, down, left, and right) and all free tiles will move along. Thus, you may be moving more than one row or column at a time, and you may trigger more than one merge in a single action.

After each move, the game will place a new tile in an empty space left behind by the action. For example, if you swipe right, the new tile will be placed in the first column of one of the rows that move to the right. An indicator on the top of the screen tells you the next tile that will be placed on the board.

It is important to remember that the space on the board is limited, and the game ends when you can no longer move. Hence, you must manage the free spaces. I recommend planning for a move that will free two or more spaces with a single action.

To do this, you may want to use the game’s slow slide feature. Instead of doing a full slide, hold your slide halfway through and then go back -- similar to a peek gesture. This will let you peek at how the board will look like after you make that move.

The game score is determined by the numbers and types of tiles you have at the end of the game. Each white tile is worth three times the score of its previous number, for example the 768 tile is worth 19,683 points whereas the 384 tile is only worth 6,561 points.

The app remembers all the games you have played, and sorts them to show the highest score immediately next to your last game for an easy comparison of your performance. Each time you reach a new height of 3-powered tile, you will unlock a new character that will be shown on the splash screen. You obviously want to unlock them all and score the highest you can.

To learn more about how to play the game, take a look at the following animated GIF:

Things I Like

A great game always has the following traits: simple rules, intuitive gameplay, but difficult to master. Threes! has all of these traits. It’s very addictive because you will always want to beat your (and other people’s) highscores.

Threes! has no in-app purchases. It also has no timer. Take all the time you need to consider your move. You can even stop playing and resume whenever you’re ready. The game will save the current game state.

Like the game, the menu screen is accessible using single swipes. You can swipe left from your last game to see your highest score. Swiping right will take you to the game options, where you can choose the option to conserve your battery.

The only feature I wish the game has is an undo button. There were many times where I accidentally swiped in a direction that I didn’t want. But other than that, the game is really well made. It even made the honourable mentions list at the Independent Games Festival for the Excellence in Design category.

Match greater numbers and unlock new characters

Playing Tips

If you’re playing this game for the first time, the following tips may help:

  1. Understand that there are only four moves. Try to keep at least two moves available. If a row/column has four tiles, you can’t move it. Choose your moves wisely.
  2. Check what the next piece is and make a room for it. If it shows a white tile, always assume that it will be a 3. It’s very unlikely for it to show a higher number, even though it’s possible.
  3. When the board is almost full, plan for a chain of merging actions. The trick is to find a set of adjacent tiles where you can move continuously for two or more turns.
  4. Always plan for merging more than just two tiles with your action. But also remember that each time you’re not merging, the board is getting more crowded with the new tile.
  5. Master your slow-slide gesture. You will use it very frequently.

If you have been playing the game for some time, and looking for a strategy that can consistently improve your scoring, you might want to give my strategy a try:

  1. Find your deadweight -- that is, the tile that’s very difficult to merge and have to be carried for many turns. To me, the dead-weight is the tile with the biggest number. It’s definitely not the 1 or the 2.
  2. I’d like to keep my deadweight in the corner. That way, it’s never in my way. It will only be merged when its pair is ready.
  3. After you pick your corner, choose whether you want to play vertically or horizontally. I choose to play vertically, and I treat the left-most column as a fixed column. I almost never swipe right, especially when that column consists of big numbers.
  4. Try to keep smaller tiles away from the corner. Use this rule consistently: left tile > right tile, and upper tile > lower tile. Flip the rules accordingly if you choose a different corner and fixed row/column. A perfect board (for me) would look something like this:

24 12 6 3
12 6 3
6 3

The best plan is to merge the entire second column with the three lower tiles of the first row. Referring to the perfect board above, I would swipe down, then swipe left to merge, and swipe up, to yield a board like this:

48 aa aa ab
12 6 3 bb
6 3 bb
cc cc cc bc

Where ‘a’ shows the possible position for the new tile added by the first move, ‘b’ shows the second move, and ‘c’ shows the final swipe up.

I have to say, the game plays a bit differently when you’re using this corner strategy. But, it is much easier compared to having no strategy at all. This strategy still requires discipline and skills to gain the highest score possible.

At the time I wrote this, my highest score is 22,782 with one 768 tile.

The game ends when the board is filled


Threes! is the best single swipe puzzle game that I’ve ever played on iOS. It has all the characteristics of a great and classic game: simple rules, intuitive gameplay, and difficult to master. It has an auto save feature, a beautiful soundtrack, plus no timer and in-app purchases. If you love a game that requires a deep strategy, you will enjoy Threes! 5 Eric Pramono Feb 10, 2014

Threes! is available for iPhone/iPad.

Get it on the App Store: iPhone | iPad

You should follow the author on Twitter here.

Like the app? You might enjoy these:
- Finger Tied Jr.
- Ichi
- Symmetry Shuffle