Connecting dots can be futile with Dots Connector Free

Dots Connector Free screenshot

I usually enjoy games which require strategy, problem-solving, and mental exercise. I hate the vapid passivity which our technologically-glutted culture appears to aid and abet. I also deeply appreciate app creators' attempts to be thoughtful, careful planners who finely tune their creations to communicate a message - even if that message is simply "Have fun!". While Dots Connector Free is a pleasant enough app, and is certainly within the strategy/problem-solving genre, it appears to suffer from a lack of clear direction and instruction. This significantly robs the player from a truly enjoyable playing experience. This app is free and is available for iOS 7.0 or later, optimized for iPhone 5.

The basic thrust of this app is to create boxes: the titular "dots" are what connects each line with some of the lines already filled in. This would appear to be simple enough, but it isn't. This is not inherently a bad thing, but the way it unfolds in Dots is. For the player has absolutely no idea what they are doing.

I completed all twenty-six levels having utterly no idea how I was supposed to make the boxes. This is because there are no instructions within the app itself, the description in the App Store is woefully unclear, and the website (which I only just discovered by pure chance) is equally unclear. It appears you must be judicious with your use of lines, as if you connect the wrong two dots you will have to start all over again.

Dots Connector Free screenshot

This is where part of the lack of clarity comes in: It is never clear why you are unable to connect the two particular dots. Further, the two dots can change if you have to redo the puzzle. On one of the higher levels, I must have had to redo the puzzle five or six times, with absolutely no rhyme or reason (at least to me) as to what I was doing wrong.

As I studied the website, looked very closely at the game, and even replayed some levels while writing this review, I had more of an idea about what I was doing, but only slightly. The first thing you see when beginning the level are words that say "Each 'line' will help resolve a 'box.' Use it wisely." Other than this there is zero direction or clarification within the app itself. About the only thing that is clear is the phrase "box" with a number at the top of the game's screen indicates how many boxes total you will connect on that level (e.g. 9, 12).

Dots Connector Free screenshot

As you complete boxes, that number will progressively go down until you have finished all of them. That much is clear. Figuring out why you are allotted lines, what causes you to lose them (when the dots refuse to connect), and how to make sure you are using them as intended is never discussed. I was extremely frustrated while playing because I had no idea what I was supposed to do besides make boxes, which obviously at seemingly random times was not happening.

Even after referring to the just-discovered website, I still am not certain what precisely the strategy is with the allotted lines. The best I can figure is that the game expects you to fully complete a box before moving onto another, but that still doesn't explain why when I would move onto the next box the lines would sometimes not connect.

The other interesting thing to note is that each of the twenty-six levels is named after a particular emotion, and preceded by a quote (I assume from the game's creator) regarding that emotion. This was intriguing but enigmatic. I was not certain of the purpose of this, as it felt somewhat unrelated to the game itself. Perhaps the creator had a very good reason for doing this, but it was not clear to me. The best I could determine was from one of the seller-provided screenshots saying players would feel each emotion as they played. I had to chuckle when I read that, as the hardest level for me was one called "loving." I felt zero love while on that level.

Dots Connector Free screenshot

While the actual gameplay is very unclear and confusing, the game itself is lovely. I am a fan of minimalism and streamlining if they are done well, and a clean, smooth interface set in black and white was an utter pleasure to look at. The moving two-tone black geometric shapes in the background added an ethereal feel to gameplay without being distracting.

I am more than certain the game's creator was well-intentioned in their endeavor. Indeed, the game was pleasant enough once I stopped having as many failed attempts. There were so many problems given the total lack of direction and clarity that the game simply wasn't fun. I do not like getting through all the offered levels of an app and feeling like an ordeal is over. I think I actually exhaled and said "Finally!" when I finished. It shouldn't be that way. A bit more direction, some clearer instructions, would have helped immensely.

I am a huge fan of puzzles and problem-solving, but Dots Connector Free needs to up the ante with its directions if this game is going to move from a frustrating impossibility to a true challenge of the mind.