I was never a big fan of the original Dots. While I’m all for minimalist games, the mobile puzzler always felt too insubstantial to really hold my attention for long. But there was definitely something satisfying about the main mechanic, which had you matching lines of like-colored dots to clear them away. The sequel, Two Dots, made good on that premise by introducing some semblance of structure through increasingly challenging levels. The third game in the series, which releases today, isn’t a huge shift. Instead, it refines the experience, polishing a fun and charming game into something even better.
Much like Two Dots, the new Dots & Co offers a series of levels to play through, each with their own particular challenge. (At launch, the game has 155 levels, a number that will likely grow much larger through future updates.) What you do in each level is always the same — matching dots — but the goal of each stage differs. Usually you have to clear away a certain number of each color, but sometimes you’ll need to do things like break all of the ice on the game board. The boards get more complex as you progress, and the game introduces new power-ups that add an extra layer of strategy to the experience (the biggest addition in Dots & Co is the new helper characters, which give you boosts like dot-zapping laser beams when you fulfill certain requirements).
That was all true of Two Dots, but overall Dots & Co feels like a better experience. The reason can be hard to pinpoint: it's the smaller details that all add up to create something more. The game boards feel better designed, for instance, while the power-ups are more useful. You still have to deal with free-to-play annoyances like power-ups you buy with real money, but, at least for the few hours I’ve played, it hasn’t felt like a necessary part of the experience. Dots & Co is also just a very charming game; the art and music work together so well to create a sense of zen. As my colleague Dieter wrote last week, it’s the rare mobile puzzle game that feels chill.