I just reinstalled Two Dots and I instantly regret it. Two Dots is the Candy Crush-ified sequel to Dots, a simple, visually appealing puzzle game on iOS. By connecting two or more dots of a certain colour, those dots are destroyed, and more dots drop down replacing them. Dots was great fun but limited in longevity due to it’s simple concept, and this, combined with it’s ease, clearly resulted in poor monetisation of the franchise.
Enter Two Dots, taking the life system and level structures of Candy Crush and shoving them into what was previously a charming game. It is visually appealing if a little bland, and the connecting dots mechanic is intuitive and almost therapeutic. It’s based on a game I really liked and yet I really hate it, and I don’t know why I reinstalled it.
"When in doubt, just make squares". The main issue with the gameplay is it’s square mechanic; when a square is formed by connecting dots, all dots of that colour are instantly destroyed. This mechanic worked in the original game, essentially boiling down to "how many times can you fail to make a square". In the sequel, which is level based, the disproportionately effective power of making squares means that each level is either focused on the player constantly making squares or on them not being able to do so (by changing the shape of the board), and it is all too frequently the former once you get to about level 15.
Generally, I would say that good game design creates a system of play where victory is definitely achievable, and the ability to win is in the hands of the player (with elements of luck thrown in to spice it up). In Two Dots, victory is in the hands of the randomised selection of dots you receive, and the player really only has the ability to fuck up by making the wrong move (which is all too easy as your finger often covers key screen real-estate). Victory could be impossible based on the first array of dots you get (any time you can’t make a square in the first 3 moves), and should this initial array be actually ok, if the subsequent dots that drop fail to provide you with a new square, you’ve failed. And you have to wait 20 minutes for a new life, or pay £0.69!
Also, the original featured power-ups that would have been perfect for this game but are for some reason absent. It seems to me like they missed a trick, because the only power up available is a bomb, which are pretty useless. You can actually form bombs by forming a 3x3 square with a dot inside, but the resulting bomb always seems to destroy dots that would have enabled me to create another square, as a result ruining my streak.
Despite all this it is very addictive and I will probably keep playing it for a few days. Perhaps this addiction lies in the fact that that success is so rooted in the selection of dots you receive, something that is totally out of your control, just like opening booster packs of playing cards (like I keep doing in Hearthstone, despite having failed to get a legendary card yet!).