One of the great things about having a smartphone is that you can fill little moments of nothingness — a wait in line, a bus commute home — with a mesmerizing little game. Betaworks’ skillfully designed and well-received Dots did just that. Now, just a little more than a year after it came out, Betaworks has followed up with a free, quest-driven iteration of the original: TwoDots.
The basic principles of the original Dots game still stand: Attempt to connect as many of the same-color dots as possible within one turn, and make as many squares as possible. You can connect dots horizontally and vertically, but not diagonally. It’s a single-player game, but you can connect it to Facebook and compare your scores to your friends’.
Here’s what the original Dots looks like. See those four red dots clustered in the middle? Swipe your finger to connect them in a square and you’ll earn four points.
But in TwoDots, you’re not given the same screens of dots to conquer over and over again, attempting to improve your score. Instead, you must master each of the game’s 85 levels (sort of like a mini Candy Crush). The loose storyline goes as follows: Two brave adventurers must traverse many a rough landscape. Here they are below, shaped like human dots.
Each time you move up a level, TwoDots adds an artifact from one of their journeys to the wall of their submarine home base, which also happens to be your home screen.
At each level, TwoDots presents a new challenge: To connect a certain number of dots from each color category within a limited number of moves. For instance, Level 1 requires you to connect 15 blue, pink, and yellow dots in no more than 20 moves. In Level 2, you also have to connect 15 green dots. Level 3 drops one color but ups the ante to 50 dots apiece. And so on. A cheery little soundtrack repeats endlessly as you navigate the dots.
As you can see, the beginning levels start with the most basic dot formations, like the four-by-four square below. At the top of the screen, TwoDots shows you how many moves you have left and the number of dots you’ve acquired in each color. The line at the bottom of the screen tracks how many points you’ve earned. Each mark on the line signifies whether you’ve earned a star. The minimum points earned will get you one star, and so on. The highest score you can get on a level is three stars.
As the levels continue, you keep collecting things on the adventurer family’s wall. Check out those super-cool antler horns.
Of course, the higher you go, the harder the formations are to master and the fewer moves you have to navigate them. The best strategy is to form as many squares and rectangles as possible during a round. But skinnier columns with built-in roadblocks (like the ones below) can make it difficult to make long, high-scoring strings of dots.
Making squares in TwoDots is a little different from the original. When you make a square formation, all the dots trapped within those lines will turn black, and become little time bombs that zap the dots around them (as shown below).
The same goes if you happen to finish a level with a few extra moves to spare.
Once you reach higher levels, new dots with different qualities start popping up. Take the anchor dot, for instance: It’s too heavy and scarce to eliminate by connecting it with its peer dots. You must instead clear the dots below each one until it reaches the edge of the pattern. Then it simply slips away.
All these dynamic graphics and addictive challenges come with a caveat: You’re given five lives to start with, and each time you don’t pass a level, one will disappear. In a very Candy Crush-manner, TwoDots will replenish a missing life every 20 minutes. Once you’re all out, you can either opt to purchase five more lives for 99 cents, or — if you’re patient enough — wait.
As a recovering Dots fanatic, I see TwoDots as an even more addictive rendition of the original. Rather than continually attempting to one-up your or your Facebook friend’s best score, you’re moving through 85 levels, being rewarded with adorable little prizes as you proceed. You can, of course, always connect your account to Facebook. But TwoDots is fascinating with or without human competition, a quality that makes it both dangerous and wonderful to have on your phone when a pocket of free time arises.
You can download TwoDots for free on iOS here. The Android version of the game is expected to be out before the end of the year.