Thursday Amazon released yet-another free game for the Kindle. It’s called Dots and Boxes, and it’s a very attractive rendition of one of the classic mathematical strategy games.
Amazon’s game was actually invented more than 150 years ago, by a famous French mathematics professor named Edouard Lucas. (According to Wikipedia, he invented another classic math game — the Tower of Hanoi puzzle — which was also recently adapted into a game for the Kindle 120 years after his death.) Lucas once discovered a 40-digit prime number by performing all the calcuations by hand! But what’s funny is that Lucas himself tried to market a version of “Dots and Boxes” back in the 1800s, saying the game’s author was “N. Claus de Siam” (which was really just an anagram for “Lucas d’Amiens” — acknowledging the city in north France, where he was born).
It’s a game which is traditionally played with a pencil and paper, but Amazon’s created a slick update. Players take turns drawing lines between the dots on a grid — and if a player’s line forms the fourth side of a box, a picture of an animal appears inside to show that they’ve claimed the entire square. “Your goal is to beat your opponent by completing more boxes than they do,” Amazon explain in the game’s instructions, but the game is surprisingly difficult. The first time I tried playing a game against my Kindle, the Kindle actually managed to beat me! (“Wow! The Kindle is really smart and very tricky,” posted one reviewer on Amazon.com.)
But I really liked how Amazon indicated which player had claimed the square — using either a lion’s head or the head of an elephant. There’s also a nice illustration of the two animals above each of the menus (which are framed with vines and flowers.) Even when you’re scrolling through the menus, the “selection indicator” is an elephant’s head on one side and an lion’s head on the other. I think it would’ve been fun if Amazon had just decided to call the game “Elephant Heads and Lion Heads.”
This makes the seventh free game that Amazon has released. (Less than a month earlier, Amazon released — Number Slide — and there’s also two free card-based games, Video Poker and Blackjack.) Amazon’s also released two (free) word games — Every Word and Shuffled Row — and of course, the first free game for the Kindle was Minesweeper. There’s a link built into “Dots and Boxes” that leads to Amazon’s own game page in the Kindle store where you can donwload all of their other free games to your Kindle.
This game brought back fond memories for at least one Kindle blogger. “I can remember being in the back of the car on a long trip with a large pad of paper with a 100 square grid playing with my sister,” remembers Michael P. Gallagher. In a review he posted to Amazon’s web site, he suggests that the Kindle version reminded him of some of that childhood drama.
“We were usually good to be a little more quiet for ten minutes or so until one or the other would get frustrated with losing, or gloaring a little too much with winning!”