Calculator (iOS)


No I’m not reviewing a calculator.

I’m reviewing Calculator, an iOS game that looks like…well…a calculator.

The premise is quite simple.  On each level the calculator has certain buttons, most of which are arithmetical operations such as “+12”, “x3”.  The calculator starts at a certain number, and you need to use the buttons to validly reach a target number.  But you must do so within a limited number of moves.

In practice it’s an elegant design.  It begins as a fairly simple arithmetic challenge, but pretty quickly becomes complex as weird new buttons are introduced, such as (for example) 4–>6 (which turns every “4” into a “6”) or “invert” (which inverts the number, so that 2406 would become 6042).

It sounds like the sort of game that requires a strong math basis to play, but fortunately (at least fortunately for non-math types like me) it gives you three big lifelines  – (1) the target number of moves is usually not just an “outer limit” but the number of button presses you must make; (2) you will always press each button at least once and (3) there’s a “hint” button.

The “hint” button is the monetization of course.  You get a few freebies per day and you can earn them by watching ads.  It certainly doesn’t demand “pay to win” though – I got through the whole thing without needing to buy hints (although I did in the end, because I thought the developers deserved it).

All of this may sound fairly elegant if fairly mundant, but it has one last trick up its sleeve – the calculator has a personality.  And it’s a surprisingly endearing!  The calculator talks to you between levels, and while most of what it says is of the “mindless optimism” variety, it says enough to…get your interest.



So, do I recommend it?


I think it’s a bit of a shame this game hasn’t got more press.  It’s a beautifully elegant conceit that’s presented in a very approachable way.  The puzzles are certainly a challenge, though the cumulative effect of the lifelines I mentioned above is that you can brute-search your way through a lot of the puzzles if you get stuck; or just use the “hint” button to cut down the available options.

It’s not for everyone of course, but then nothing is.  If a game truly is “for everyone” then it’s probably some milquetoast meaningless drivel.  Whitebread is “for everyone”, but Lord knows I’ll only eat it under sufferance.

Release date:              June, 2017
Purchase date:          Approx August 2018
Complete date:          Approx August 2018
Platform:                    iOS
Time spent:                Approx 10-15 hours
Developer:                 Simple Machine LLC (I assume, the store only identifies the “seller”)
Publisher:                  Simple Machine LLC
Lead designer:          Kurt Bieg (assumed from the Simple Machine website)

Recommended if:   You’d like a fairly fast-paced numbers puzzle game, even if you’re not good with numbers.

Not recommended if: You want a video game where guns go “bang bang”.

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