App Review: Set Pro HD

The game of Set is now available in more stores than ever before, from big box retailers to independent game stores. Finally, a full-featured digital version is also ready and waiting for your iPad in the App Store.

There have been Set apps before, even one officially licensed by Set Enterprises, but this is the real deal. All the criticisms we had of the other Set app, which was iPhone/iPod touch only, are totally wiped away by this new version, and if you haven't been introduced to this quick-thinking game of finding matches – or if you're already a fan – we have no hesitation recommending the new Set Pro HD app. Yes, it's relatively expensive at $7.99, but it is quite gorgeous and the gameplay is top-notch. Read on to see if it's time to upgrade your Set cards.


The Game

I don't want to quote myself or rewrite something that I did just a few months ago to describe the game, especially since the basic gameplay of finding sets in Set Pro HD is exactly the same as the original Set app, it's just easier to offer you this link to click on if you don't know how to play. If you already know, keep reading.

The App

OK, welcome back.

So, what's better about Set Pro HD than either the earlier Set app or a deck of Set cards. Well, pretty much everything, but the most important thing is that you can now play a full game of Set. Up to four people sit around the iPad, all tensely looking for the three cards that will score them a point. Also, just like when playing with a regular deck of Set cards, there won't always be a set in the 12 cards dealt out. If you believe there's a set (and so touch your player name to signal that you found one) but then don't find one, you'll be dinged with negative points. If there really isn't a set, three more cards are dealt. Again, just like the deck. Of course, Set Pro HD requires an iPad, so if you don't have one, then your App Store options are limited to the iPhone/iPod touch-friendly regular Set app.

Set Pro HD adds a lot of things that you can't do with the cards, though, including ways to post your score on Facebook and, more importantly, adds five additional play modes: Sprint, Arcade, Rediscovery, Marathon and Puzzle. Here's a brief rundown on how these work in the advanced game:

  • Sprint: Find as many Sets as you can in 90 seconds

  • Puzzle: Find six Sets as fast as possible.

  • Arcade: Find a number of Sets in the required time to pass to the next level, and levels get shorter/harder as you make progress.

  • Rediscovery: Find 25 Sets in the shortest time possible, but here, the cards are rearranged every 20 seconds

  • Marathon: Similar to Sprint, but now the time limit is 300 seconds.

These variants are designed to be played solo, and they really spice up the game once you're a master at spotting sets. Set Pro HD also helps you to be a better Set player by making it just so simple to play fast – you don't need to deal new cards when you find a set, for example – and there's also an option to display the reason why the three cards you just thought were a set actually aren't.

Now for the bad stuff: the app will pause your game, but it doesn't save games if you exit the app. Boo. Also, you can't play your iPod music while playing, which is just so annoying it hurts. Why do developers continue to insist on making this hard to do?

These problems can't dull my overall appreciation for this game, though. Set is a simple game that's mentally challenging and playable anytime. It's fast and instantly engaging. The only problem I've had teaching the game has been when I've come across some people who just do not get the idea of "all the same or all different." Thankfully, Set Pro HD has a well-done tutorial section that should make learning the game a no-brainer for everyone. Then, once you know how to play, you can all turn your brains back on and compete.

Want to see the game in high-speed action? Watch the video below. It's 70 seconds of Set goodness.