Previously featured in Link Dump Friday, Gabriele Cirulli's fiendishly simple and dangerously addictive puzzle game 2048 has sort of been taking over the world, one square at a time. The object, as the title implies, is to reach 2048 by combining squares... when two squares of the same value are merged, they become a single square with their total value, and your goal is to swipe and combine until you reach that golden number... or the board fills up and becomes immovable. It's harder than it sounds, since each time you move with [WASD] and the [arrow] keys, not only do all the squares move at once in the same direction, a new square will also be spawned with a value of either two or four.
If it sounds a lot like Asher Vollmer and Greg Wohlwend's iOS and Android smash-hit Threes!, well, that's because it basically is, albeit extra simplified in every conceivable way, from design to gameplay. Where Threes! actually boasts some surprisingly challenging rules for such a simple mechanic, 2048 is mostly just about simple matching and addition. It identifies as being "similar" to Threes!, which it is, but a bit more than in a passing fashion. It's still fun and enjoyable as it is, but if you do enjoy it, you should probably also make the effort to acquaint yourself with some of the "source material".
2048 is one of those easy to play yet hard to win games that tend to dominate any spare time you might have had, but Gabriele's has really taken off in a massive way, spawning countless imitators and even outright clones in just a few weeks. It's the same sort of unexpected, jaw-dropping viral success of, say, Flappy Bird, but without the infuriating mindlessness. Randomly swiping your board around can admittedly rack up a fairly decent score, but the more the values start climbing, the more apparent it is that you'll need to start coming up with a strategy if you really want to get anywhere close to victory. If you do manage to succeed, you'll actually be given the option to keep going to try for even bigger combos. Playing 2048 has the same sort of "just enough brain involved" appeal of games like Solitaire, and it's easy to see why it can have you going "one more round" over and over. With so many imitators and clones, it's important to give proper credit where credit is due, so make sure you're only playing on the official site, and consider making a donation to the developer if you've lost an hour or several here, and be sure to check out Threes! if you want something even smarter and meatier for your favourite smartphone device.