/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

TwoDots review: Whimsical, addictive game that takes patience

sarahmitroff.jpg

TwoDots (iOS|Android) is the delightful sequel to Betaworks' 2013 hit Dots . The game premise is simple -- you connect two or more dots to remove them from the playing field -- but this version adds challenges, obstacles, and power-ups to keep everything fresh.

twodots-7258-001.jpg
8.8

TwoDots

The Good

TwoDots is easy enough to get you hooked and hard enough to keep you feeling challenged. The game's design is fun and playful, which makes up for the frustratingly hard levels.

The Bad

In-app purchases can add up, and when you run out of lives, you have to wait 20 minutes to play again.

The Bottom Line

TwoDots is one of the best games you can play this year, just watch out for those in-app purchases.

The game launched for iOS in May 2014, but it took until November to arrive on Android. The app is free, but there are in-app purchases that'll cost you around $1 per power-up or extra life. A recent update added new levels to the iOS game, and the Android release includes those, too.

TwoDots is simple, yet challenging (pictures)

See all photos

Design

TwoDots is colorful and bright from top to bottom. While the original Dots game had a simple look, with a white background and plain menu, TwoDots is filled with creative illustrations and playful animations in the menus and colorful backgrounds in some levels.

The game is divided into different worlds, each with its own themes on the menu screen. When you reach a new world, the game shows you an illustrated postcard introducing you to the new terrain. You start in the beginning world, which is a wall of tools and trophies that looks like it was lifted from a Wes Anderson movie. Then you move into an under-the-sea motif where you need to sink anchor dots in your levels. There's an icy tundra followed by a volcano, then a fiery forest, and a desert and so on.

twodots-worlds.jpg
TwoDots has a cartoony design with themed "worlds" to play in. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

What's really enticing about these worlds is that they have their own characters and whimsical animations on the screen. The tundra, for example, is inhabited by a sunglasses-wearing Yeti that moves its arms in time with the music that plays throughout the game.

TwoDots also has music for each world, and the gameplay features interactive sound effects that aren't distracting or irritating. If you're not keen on either, you can turn off the music and sounds in the settings.

Also in the settings is colorblind mode, which puts tiny symbols in each dot. I highly recommend using colorblind mode, not only because it makes the dots look cooler, but also because it makes each level much easier to see, especially when there's the occasional dark-colored background.

How to play

Playing TwoDots is quite simple: you connect two or more same-colored dots together to clear them from the screen. Like in Dots, you can make a square of dots to clear out all of that color from the field. In many levels, you'll need to make squares in order to win, so you'll want to look for every opportunity to do that as often as you can.

If there are no available moves on the screen, which happens when there are no two dots of the same color next to each other, the board automatically shuffles the dots.

For each level, there's a star rating; you earn stars by racking up points from the dots you clear. You'll see your progress at the bottom of the screen, in the progress bar, and each time you earn a star, you'll hear a short chime. You can also see your score and star rating when you complete a level.

twodots-play.jpg
Each level has a field of dots that you must connect to clear them from the screen. Obstacles, like the fire dots above, try to get in your way. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

You get the chance to earn medals for each level, but only if you connect your Facebook account. The top scores among you and your friends earn gold, silver and bronze metals.

Each day you get five lives to play as many levels as you can, and as long as you complete a level, they won't disappear. Once you fail a level, your life is gone. When you exhausted all of your lives, you need to wait 20 minutes for each life to regenerate. If you can't wait that long, you can pay 99 cents to buy a new life.

The game is very encouraging, with congratulatory messages when you beat a level and helpful tips on the loading screens. Undoubtedly this is all a ploy to keep you playing, and it works wonderfully.

Objectives and obstacles

What makes the game challenging are the objectives and obstacles. Each level has a clear objective, which usually means clearing a certain number of colored dots and/or clearing out obstacles. You must meet the objective in the number of moves you're given or else you fail the level and lose a life. You're told the objective at the beginning of each level, and you can see your progress at the top of the screen while you're playing.

Within each world in the game, there are new obstacles that change how you play. In the underwater world, there are anchor dots that you need to clear from the board by getting them to fall off the bottom row. In later levels, there are frozen spaces on the playing field that take three hits to clear and fire dots that spread fire to surrounding dots after each move. The fire dots are particularly annoying because they can eventually take up almost the entire playing field if you're not careful.

Obstacles vary by level and some of the later levels have up to four obstacles, making play especially difficult.

Power-ups

Helping you beat the obstacles, TwoDots includes several power-ups that you can create yourself or earn from completing challenges.

The power-up that's easiest to get your hands on is the bomb. If you create a large square of dots around a single different-colored dot, that middle dot becomes a bomb that can blast away dots around it. If you complete a level with moves left, those moves become bombs that help you earn more points.

A newer feature in the game: each day you're given a Daily Quest, which usually involves clearing out a certain number of obstacle dots. By completing a Quest, you earn supply crates that contain one random power-up to help you beat a level. Those power-ups include flooding the entire board with one color, creating three colored squares and setting off three bombs on the screen. While you can beat the levels without using supply crates, they are very helpful when you get stuck.

twodots-questcrates.jpg
You can earn supply crates in the game by completing Daily Quests. The crates give you power-ups to help you in difficult levels. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

If you run out of supply crates, you can either wait for a new Daily Quest or purchase four for $1, 25 for $5 or 150 for $25. The power-ups range in price from 69p to £17.49 in the UK and AU$0.99 to AU$24.99.

The last kind of power-up is offered when you lose a level. The game will ask if you want to purchase five more lives and a power-up that corresponds to the obstacle in the level (a fire extinguisher for a level with fire dots, for example) for 99 cents. If you don't want to buy the in-app purchase, keep your eyes peeled for when the game will occasionally offer you the extra moves and power-up for free. It's rare, but it does happen.

Final thoughts

With a delightful design and thoughtful little details, TwoDots is a wonderful sequel that's better than the original. It's easy to get addicted to the game, with it's just-hard-enough levels and daily opportunity to earn extras.

Even the appeals for in-app purchases aren't too intrusive, and they offer enough help to get you through a tough level. I am not ashamed to admit that I've already sunk a few bucks into the game, just to get a few extra moves. If you're not already playing, download the app now.

twodots-7258-001.jpg
8.8

TwoDots

Score Breakdown

Setup 10Features 8Interface 9Performance 9