‘Dots’ review: Tetris for hipsters or the best puzzler ever made?


Dots, an insanely simple and addictive game by Playdots, Inc is the best puzzler since Tetris. It’s available for Android and iOS and there is no reason that you shouldn’t get it. It’s free, and there are in-app purchases but if you play for long enough, you’ll get enough points to negate any spending of real money. Dots has nailed it. And it’s free. Let it roll of your tongue. “The best puzzler in years can be scooped up for free.”

A simple premise 

Take Bejeweled, another heavily-addictive orb-swapping game and strip away the fuss. What you have left is Dots. The task is simple: match different coloured dots on a 6×6 playing board. You match the dots by dragging similar colours together. You can only match colours that are either horizontally or vertically adjacent to the dot. The smallest colour match is a two-in-a-row but if you’re imaginative or great at planning, you could snake a line of colour throughout the board.

There are two different styles of play: match as many as you can in sixty seconds, or be crafty and see how you can score with only thirty moves. This is Dots in action.

A Dots master in action (not me sadly)
The simple truth

There’s addictive, there’s the sublime and then there’s Dots. Dots hooks you, unassumingly, after the first 10 or 20 games. It’s what happened to me. Sitting on my couch on a Sunday morning, I had nothing better to do then to play Dots. I downloaded it, but I hadn’t tested it yet. People told me “Oh Steven just play it, it’s amazing”. I told them to mind their business I’m the professional here, who are you to command me? Still, Dots. It’s as close to digital love as I’ll ever get.

It began unassumingly enough. I messed around with a few rounds, compared my score to the online leaderboard and kept on playing. My score remained low, never topping 100 or more. Then it clicked. It’s not just about making lines, it’s about making squares out of those lines.

When you form a square in Dots, the colour of the square vanishes from the board. With less colours, it’s easier to form more squares with the remaining dots. Or, I start chaining together endless rows of dots to form snake-like lines across the board. There’s not a lot of room for error with a sixty-second limit, but there’s endless scope for innovation.

There are 30 trophies (achievements) to grab and this is where the innovation comes. Capture a dot in a square, play 100 games of Dots, form a line of 20+ blue dots and so on. Once you begin to understand how the dots are formed, getting a high score of 400+ isn’t unheard of. The fun comes in when the lines start to appear before your eyes. You drag to connect, your dots ring out a happy tune and the clock ticks down. There are no penalties and no death (just a quick restart). Dots may just be the cleanest gaming experience you’ll ever find.

Buyer beware

In-app purchases are majestically handled by the game. There are only three power-ups to purchase namely Time Stops, Shrinkers and Expanders. Time Stops add an extra five seconds to each round but can only be used once, Shrinkers remove one dot off the board and Expanders remove all of one colour from the round. With practice, these power-ups can double or triple any score.

These power-ups can either be earned by collecting dots, or purchased with grown-up monies. Now, because of the nature of Dots (it’s impossible to stop playing), your collection of currency builds fairly quickly, so after a few hours of play the need to spend money on power-ups is negated. It hasn’t made Dots any less popular and as of now, it’s the number one free app on the UK Android store. It deserves that spot as well.

Verdict: Dots is simple, addictive and free. The in-app store is there, but you won’t need it. What you will do though, is sink hours into Dots. The hypnotizing rhythm of clearing a board is unlike anything else on the app store. You can’t even play it for a few rounds as Dots has some weird hold over you. After one game, you start playing another, and another, and then your friends gather around you and start playing as well until a symphony of sounds joins everyone in one, harmonious dot-happy world.

Score: 10/10

Dots was tested on an iPhone 5 which was happily provided to us by Vodacom

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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