Friday 22 November 2019

Size Isn't Everything

On the mobile gaming front I’ve had a couple of old favourites ticking along for a fair while now: Marvel Puzzle Quest for match-3-ing with added gacha-type collecting, and Wordscapes for Scrabble-ish vocabulary workouts. I had a hankering for something a bit different and remembered playing 2048 a while back, so grabbed 2048 Ultimate for a bit of number combining.

2048 is a simple concept, based on(/ripping off) Threes!; tiles valued 2 or 4 randomly appear on a 4×4 grid, you swipe in a direction to move them all around, and tiles of the same value combine to form a new tile of twice the value. You keep swiping until you get a tile of the titular 2048 or the board is completely full, though if you hit 2048 you can keep going for a total score of the value of all tiles on the board. Nice little self contained game, well suited to touch screens, doesn’t take too long or need particularly deep thought.

The main difference in 2048 Ultimate appears to be the ability to play on grid sizes from 3×3 to 8×8. Obviously the first thing to do is take everything TO THE MAX and play on the largest grid possible, so I kicked off an 8×8 game. A month later, it’s still going with no obvious signs that it’ll finish. Ever. The difference between a 4×4 and 8×8 grid doesn’t seem that much, a mere four extra squares per side; of course being a grid it’s a total of 64 rather than 16 squares, but that’s still not that much more, is it? Or is it? It is. Isn’t it? Or is it? Yes, it is.

Instead of carefully considering each move on a grid that size it’s more just furiously swiping everything towards one corner of the board. Speed of swipe is of the essence if for no other reason than the possibility of finishing a game before the heat death of the universe – I have a suspicion that the average number of moves to fill an 8×8 board works out as a ludicrous number, more seconds than have elapsed since the big bang or something, like the old grains of rice on a chess board doubled in each square. You can get into something of a trance-like state, mindlessly swiping away, though there are occasional bumps in the road when the swiping is a bit too furious and you shift everything in the wrong direction. There’s an Undo button, but it only reverts a single move which isn’t always enough if you don’t snap out of the swipe-trance quickly enough. That makes life a bit more interesting, sorting out non-optimal tile placements, but in general it’s quite a calming way of zoning out and passing a bit of time, gradually layering numbers like geological strata.