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App Review: Dots – A Game About Connecting (or being an addict)

I recently came across the phenomenon called “Dots” – one of the more addictive iPhone games I’ve had the chance to play. The main idea is simple: you have exactly 60 seconds to connect as many dots as you can by color. Sounds boring, right? Well, there are some special patterns, powerups and other features that make this a simply hypnotic experience.

The first time you open the app, you’ll get a chance to play a very unusual tutorial. I say unusual because you don’t exactly understand what’s going on and what you’re supposed to do. I found it pretty intuitive but I guess this can be regarded as a screening process for people who won’t get the game anyway.

After finishing the tutorial, you’ll find yourself smoothly transported to the main menu screen. Right away you’ll notice how smooth, bouncy and fun everything is – even when dealing with boring tasks such as toggling the sound on/off, or typing in your username.

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It’s pretty clear which button they want me to tap…

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So I’ll tap the other one. That will show them!

Once you start playing, there’s very little chance you won’t get hitched – the playability is amazing, the overall experience is smooth and addictive. Make dots disappear by connecting them, make them disappear even more by connecting squares, shrink, expand, freeze time and waste it too! Wonderful…

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Yay for you...

Yay for you… Now go back to work

It’s also apparent that these folks gave a lot of thought to the audio – the sounds are mellow, fun and create a wonderful ambience for the whole experience. As you play more and more, not only will you loose touch with your family and friends, but you’ll also gain “dots” – this is the currency used in the game to purchase powerups, such as this one:

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Sounds like an adequate name for fat people pants 

You can also see how other people are doing after each game or through the “High Scores” section in the main menu. While writing this post, my high score was 310 and the leaderboard  number one had 608 (OMG!!! How?? Probably sold his house to buy dots via in-app purchase).

So what makes this app a winner in my opinion?

1. Extremely clean, smooth and intuitive UI

2. Simple-to-grasp concept with a nice range of stuff to learn as you go along.

3. Perfect audio. You’ll understand when you hear it.

4. Beautiful animations

Download at your own risk here, don’t come to me when you realize you forgot to pick up the kids because you were too busy breaking your own record.

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UX: There’s a control for that

During my first year at university, I remember my Java professor telling us something I’ll never forget and that still guides me to this day: “Someone already wrote it”. His philosophy was very strong on this – if you’re trying to tackle a general problem, there’s a very good chance that someone already did most of the work and there is probably an open source library that does what you need. That’s the beauty of object oriented programming: If you do things right, everything is modular, plug & play, reusable and it’s especially true when coding for iOS.

There are extremely talented people writing amazing open source code for iOS. You can interact with them on Stack Overflow, where they volunteer their time and experience to help us solve our problems. You can see things they’ve done by browsing GitHub repositories and you can find endless reusable and open source code via simple Google searches.

And there’s even a greater advantage here when discussing user experience. There are hundreds of controls out there, some are free to use under several restrictions and some are for sale, that (if used correctly) give you the chance to create some very creative user interfaces. If you haven’t already, I suggest you give them a try.

A great site for browsing these controls (my personal favorite) is cocoacontrols.com – you can browse iOS and Mac OS X controls by rating, recency or just by keywords. Some very good and popular controls there include:

MFSideMenu – as seen on Path, Facebook and many MANY more:

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MFSideMenu

MBProgressHUD – Great class for displaying blocking activity indicators. You’ve probably run into these in a billion apps:

MBProgressHUD

MBProgressHUD

iCarousel – A very flexible, well written control for beautiful 3D browsing:

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iCarousel

I strongly recommend you to browse some or all of the iOS controls that are available for purchase/download. Even if you don’t choose to reuse them (some may not be up to standard, I admit), they will definitely open your mind in terms of what you can do on iOS. Enjoy!