Threes: Addictive Gaming through Animation and Sound Effects

Hey friends,

Lets talk about Threes. Threes is a game about numbers and sliding and bigger numbers and it’s all very fun and worth your 3 dollars, I swear. But I’m not writing this post to talk about why Threes is a fun game, I’m writing it to talk about why Threes is a great experience to play. Threes is a game that could lose a ton of polish and still maintain its core game mechanics, but its experience design make it a lot more entertaining and worth spending time with. Threes’ use of feedforward animations and feedback sound effects add to its overall “feel” in a way that makes it an experience worth revisiting over and over.


When you first start playing Threes, it gives you a quick tutorial to help you understand how the game is played. But as you continue to play, it continues to show hints along the bottom of the screen, some of which are fairly nuanced as they relate to good strategy in the game. The hints are subtle and they stick around long enough to get you to think about how to play the game better. I found myself thinking things like “Why should I pay attention to the next type of card that’s going to get placed on the board?” The hints feel helpful but not overbearing.


In addition to explicitly written hints, Threes also animates the cards themselves to make them help the user notice certain moves available on the board. The cards have little faces and they react to each other depending on their positions. If a pair of matching cards are side by side, the faces move towards each other and make kissy faces to show that they’re compatible. If they are on top of each other, the one on top opens it mouth wider to consume its match.


Those 48s were meant for each other

Threes also helps the player out when they create a matching pair of cards, even if they are not adjacent.  When a card is generated that matches another one elsewhere on the board, both cards bounce and the faces smile wider or they talk a little bit. All of these animations combine to create an experience that feels dynamic and gives the player the sense that the game itself is cheering them on.


Hey look! I got 192s!

Sound Effects

Threes’ little cards are good at more than letting the player know what they can do; they also give feedback about what they can’t do. When the user slides the board in a direction they can’t move, the cards stretch a little but don’t move, and some of them even speak up! They say “nope” or “mm-mm” if you try to make an impossible move. In fact, each type of card (based on the numbers) has a different personality and voice so you even recognize which card is talking to you. This is a really good example of translating interface feedback into the design language of the application, even using sound as a means of communication where appropriate.


No idea what happens when I combine two Cap’ns; probably some sort of explosion.


I only have 2 small interaction gripes with Threes and neither has to do with the gameplay; just what happens when the game is over.

First, when the game is over, it asks the user to swipe in any direction to calculate the score. This feels like an odd choice of input to trigger the calculation. I’m not swiping anything and my reaction is always that I don’t want to swipe away the board that is already on the screen. I think a simple tap would’ve done here.



The other thing Threes asks the user to do after every game is enter their name for leaderboard purposes. While they at least default the text box to the last name that was entered, which is good, I do wish that there was a way to just establish that I, KeVon, am playing the game repeatedly right now and do not need to confirm that I am still the one playing. Small thing though.