The iPhone game of the moment, Dots, is so addictive that it's impossible to even talk about how addictive it is to play the color-coded connect-the-dots game without stopping to play another round — or 25. After seeing that one million people had downloaded the unassuming app in just one week, I decided to "try it out for work." I'm not the smartphone gaming type — Words with Friends, Scrabble, and Fruit Ninja all sit on my iPhone screen, but they haven't been tapped for months. But, Dots — Dots is dangerous.
When sitting down to write about the wonders of the deceptively complex color-coded orbs, I played four one-minute sessions, just to "familiarize myself" with an app that I had spent 20 minutes with last night before bed. To take that screenshot to the right I had to play another game — and then I took several yoga-style deep breaths just to stop myself again.
The game itself is simple in concept alone. Much like Bejeweled, or other matching puzzle quests, Dots gets players to connect things of the same species — in this case that means colors. The ultimate goal is to make squares. Squares earn you you the most points because they also make all of that color disappear from the board, which makes it easier to make more squares and get more points, and so on. You have one minute to compete for higher and higher scores.
Much like another game with solid circles, Dots "takes a minute to learn, a lifetime to master," which is probably what makes it so addictive. At first you're just swiping anything that fits. But once you feel the satisfaction of making a square — you can literally feel it; the phone vibrates — that's all you want. To get that, though, takes practice. You can learn certain patterns and behaviors, as chronicled in this handy guide, that will lead to a vortex of squares, which not only feels incredible, but gets you the most points.
Like any good game, the points, calculated by how many dots you destroy along your way to full-on addiction, aren't meaningless ways to tally how far the addiction has gone. Collecting dots helps you buy things that make you better at the game. There is the "shrinker," which removes a single dot from the board — a useful tool for making squares. The "expander" gets rid of all of one color without having to make a square. And the time-stop adds five seconds to a game. Each cost a varying amount of dots, but they might also help you win more dots. (To double-check those names, I had to play another two games, by the way.) The app also has "trophies," applauding you for all the mindless hours spent on the game. You don't have to feel bad about the forty rounds, also known as minutes, wasted swiping a screen because it earned you a Kusama Dot trophy.
Like many iPhone games before it, Dots will likely lose its luster after some amount of time — at least I hope so.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.