Hues - A free android threes/2048 inspired slide puzzle - Full review

Any avid reader of hacker news probably came across the sliding puzzle game 2048. If you didn't, then you probably heard of 'Threes' which was the original (iOS only at the time) inspiration for what became 2048. Since then there have been thousands of clones of the genre, some by just changing the tiles to a different theme and others tweaking the gameplay slightly or adding some polish. Either way, wherever you stand on the argument of which is better, the original threes or the 1024/2048 route, they were both great timewasters that were easy to learn but difficult to get to the big numbers. (I personally lost a lot of time to trying to reach the 2048 tile over a few weeks and various versions ranging from Dr. Who edition, numberwang edition to an animated boobs edition (mainly thanks to the usvsth3m 2048 builder ;) )

So that was all a bit of a rambling introduction to what is essentially yet another clone of the genre but with a few gameplay tweaks, which exist mainly to assist monetization or add some polish. Getting down to it, what we have is a free to install game on android with some restricted modes of gameplay with the full unrestricted mode becoming available through an in app purchase.

So how is it actually different from threes and 2048? Well it's a combination of both. In 2048 each time you move the tiles, all the tiles will shift to the full extent that they can, flopping all the way to the wall in the direction of the move. In threes, the blocks only move one space at a time.  In 2048, numbered blocks of equal value combine to create a single one of the two blocks added, starting at 1 and going up to 2048 or beyond. For instance a 4 and a 4 will merge to an 8. And 2 32's become a 64. In threes it's essentially the same but with 1's and 2's only combining with each other to make 3 as the main starting point for the main doubling up mode of 3+3 = 6, 6+6 = 12, 12+12 = 24 etc. Hues takes the scoring model of 2048 but ditches the visible numbering in favour of a colour progression of yellow, orange, red, blue, emerald, turquoise, bright green, deep blue and beyond, but underneath, the scoring is just like 2048.

While the scoring may be from 2048, almost everything else is from threes. The style of play,  with blocks moving one at a time,  to the style of the tiles, slightly offset overhead showing a little of the front edge and the fact that each tile (or hue) has a name and a little bio or story.

So you said there was monetization?

Of course it wouldn't be a modern mobile game without some sort of income generation and you'd be right. There are basically 3 modes.

1. Unlock full game.
This is known as no limit and for free you get a time limit of 60 seconds or a move limit of 75 but for $1.99 you get the full unrestricted game. No moves or time limit.

2. Ads.
There's the occasional fullscreen interstitial ad which are fairly rare but it's not, however, clear if purchasing 'no limit' stops the ads.

3. Hues.
Unlock all Hues (tiles) for $1.99 (this is slightly confusing as the tiles themselves are called Hues as well as the in-game currency)

Hues are also the in-game currency for purchases and can be earned by playing the game (I've played about 10 frames so far and earned just over 3000 hues in the free modes) or purchased through IAP. 

Gameplay scores you points and 'hues'.  As you earn hues, you can spend them on boosts to use in game. But if you don't earn hues fast enough, don't worry* because you can buy them with real money too. They consist of:

Move booster add 15 moves to the move limited game. 5000 hues for 5 boosts.
Time booster add 10 seconds to the time limited game. 5000 hues for 5 boosts.
Single Level up promote 1 tile to the next level hue. 10000 hues for 3 boosts.
Multi Level up promote all tiles of a selected hue to the next level. 15000 hues for 3 boosts.
x2 Multiplier double the score of the next round you play. 20000 hues for 1 boost.

*I didn't actually think you'd be worrying...

Real money cost:
As I've already said, hues can be earned by playing the game normally, so if you're willing to grind away sessions, you can purchase items without spending any real money, but if you want to have some boosts ready and waiting before you spend a whole day playing, the rates are: 

50000 H for $0.99 or approx 500 H per penny
200000 H for $2.99 or approx  669 H per penny
500000 H for $4.99  or approx 1000 H per penny

so assuming you bought the highest tier, a move and time booster would cost 5 cents, a single level up costs 10 cents, a multi level up costs 15 and a multiplier would be 20 cents. At the lowest purchase tier, the cost is roughly double.A purchase of the highest tier would allow you something like 20x move boosts, 20x time boosts, 12x single level ups, 4x multi level ups and 6 x2 Multi's.

But is it any good?

Well as a fan of the simplicity of 2048, I'd have to say it's not a huge improvement. It adds a lot of graphical flair over the barebones 2048, but in doing so it gets in the way a bit. For instance, every single transition and swipe action has been "Juiced". On a swipe of the interface all the menu buttons swish into view, and land in their destination locations after doing a little bounce. This is all very normal, and everyone does it to add a little interestingness to the otherwise mundane job of placing buttons on a screen. (this is otherwise known as tweening) and google have even started recommending doing it in their App UI design guidelines, but ReFocus Labs have gone too far. 

Everything bounces just a little too much and the whole transition ends up taking a bit too long as you watch every (very smooth) frame of the transition occur. It's cute and nice the first time you play, but not for the hundredth time. Fortunately it doesn't affect the game itself. Too much. (I say "too much" as there is a little bit of slide animation which could get in the way of high score in time limited mode if you're really pushing). 

Also, as a nod to Threes, each of the Hues have a little story or bio describing them. So far I've unlocked as far as Deep Blue (8th in the progression) and most of the descriptions are trying to be whimsical, but instead some just don't make any sense. For instance: 

Captain Turquoise - Conqueror of the seven seas, nothing stands in the way of Captain Turquoise. He has an irrational fear of water.

The boosts you can upgrade don't seem too well thought out. I suppose the move boost is the most likely to be used as you can tell if you're having a good game when you might need to use one. The time boost, well by the time you notice you could probably benefit from one, it's probably too late to use one. Single Level up makes a lot of sense as it could get you out of a jam where one tile is penned in. And the x2 score multi, well that's a bit of a gamble as it applies to the NEXT game, not the one you're on, and as it's also the most expensive, seems to be the most pointless except for score bragging...

So as well as all that, I found Hues to be a bit buggy. There are quite a few instances where buttons are unresponsive, for several attempts I thought Back-to-exit was missing. Sometimes the score tally from the end of a game persists through to the menu screen (see the screenshot below) and a bunch of other things which makes you feel final testing was very rushed.

Overall, I wanted to like this game. It has a nice graphical style with some nice touches, there is a musical soundtrack but it's all very safe and twee, but since you're probably playing on mute, you won't be missing anything anyway. But the methods they've chosen for monetization seem a bit contrived and I'd be hard pressed to want to pump any real money into this over and above threes or 2048.

Verdict: Not a bad game, there are better, but it's not as awful as many other clones are. It's just missing something to make it stand out
Music: 6/10
Visuals: 7/10
Execution: 5/10
Overall: 6/10

get Hues for free on Play Store 
Refocus Labs Website

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