It happens every few months, regular as clockwork. Just as people start talking of how games on quad-core tablets and handsets are now set to take on consoles in terms of graphic quality and presentation, along comes a title that proves that you do need not really need all that razzmatazz to make a game rock. For every graphic-laden Infinity Blade and N.O.V.A. title, there is a LetterPress and W.E.L.D.E.R., that manages to deliver an equally compelling experience with far lesser fuss. And the latest game to join this Keep It Simple club is Dots, a game that has been trotting up downloads by the thousand even while the “hardcore” gaming crowd raves about the arrival of Knights of the Old Republic on the iPad (yes, a review of that is coming up shortly too!!).
In terms of appearance and interface, Dots is simplicity itself. It is a mere 6 MB download for the iPhone and iPad and comes free of cost. Once installed, it presents you with a 6X6 grid of dots of six colors. Your task is simple – just connect similarly colored dots in a straight line (sorry, no diagonals allowed). The dots you connect will disappear off the grid and will be replaced by others. If you manage to connect dots in a square formation, dots of that particular color will disappear off the grid for a while, making your task of connecting similarly colored dots even simpler (fewer colors to worry about, after all). The more dots you connect, the higher your score in dots. However, there is a catch – you never have more than sixty seconds to do all the connecting you can.
You do have a few aces up your sleeve – you can stop the clock for five seconds once every round, double tap a dot to shrink it off the board (you will be surprised how often a single dot can disrupt a great scoring enterprise), and also remove dots of one color once a round. Of course, these bonuses do not come free – you earn them with the dots you score. And yes, you can also purchase them if you want with some cash, but credit to the developers, you are never pushed to do so.
And the game is so addictive that you would not mind playing it a few more times to tot up a bigger dots tally. The interface is clean and uncluttered but hardly spectacular, and the sounds basic, but we kept going back for another session of connecting dots. Partly because it was so simple to play, partly because we knew it would never take more than a minute (well, 65 seconds, if we used the clock-stopping option). And the fact that you do not really know what you will be confronted with each time you start adds a welcome element of unpredictability – you could have a red hot streak in one game and get totally burned in the next, depending on the lay of the land, or rather, dots. And more often than not, you will find yourself torn between simply tearing along and connecting all the dots that you can see, or being more methodical and trying to set up larger dot combinations for bigger scores. And of course, the clock keeps ticking even as you do so.
No, it is not perfect. As we pointed out, sounds and graphics are neat rather than spectacular. Multiplayer is very token – you play, rack up a score and pass it to another player (no Game Center integration), and then see who gets the better score. We would have loved to have two people playing simultaneously with each being able to see the other’s score, or maybe two people playing the same set, removing dots simultaneously! And well, we honestly think the iPad version could have looked a whole lot better (THAT much of plain-ness on a large retina display can get boring) – the game is actually easier to play on the iPhone!
But all said and done, what we cannot deny is that we are pretty much hooked to Dots. More hooked to it that any game since, perhaps mittens. Hooked to the extent that we actually play it whenever we have a minute to kill, and are actually waiting for the day when our scores will be good enough to post on Facebook (I mean, we are just getting close to around 200 here, when people are running up scores of 500 plus!). Yes, we are fairly dotty about it already. Pun intended. A must-download? Yes. But beware, within it lurks addiction.
Available from: iTunes App Store