Simple to learn, SET delivers challenging brain bender

Posted: May 16, 2009 in Puzzle

I have always been a puzzler at heart so when I came across SET, a game based on visual perception, I was quick to give it a try. While it’s based on a classic card game from two decades ago, I’ve seen variations of the concept in other games. And, after playing with this quite a bit, I think SET is perfect for those occasions when your brain needs some mental exercise or simply in search of a quick diversion…and who doesn’t need that.

SET has an elegant interface with a catchy soundtrack, almost reminiscent of something you would hear in a 1970s movie. You can customize the background in green, blue or silver, and in general, SET has a relaxed feel to it that should appeal to most people. While not a problem for me, one hitch is that you have to enable/disable the sound each time you open the game.

The object of the game is to identify a set of three cards in which each symbol is either the same on each card or different on each card in terms of color, symbols, shading and number. Does that sound complicated? Believe me, SET is challenging in a good way, and you’ll need some creative brain bending to find them. The game has four gameplay modes—Classic, Puzzle, Timed and Arcade.

Each mode comes with two levels of difficulty—basic and advanced. In Basic, you’re presented with 9 cards, while Advanced has 12 cards. Each card is red, green or purple, contains ovals, squiggles or diamonds, has 1-3 symbols, and is solid, outlined or striped in design. Even with the 9-card format in Basic, you’ll spend a good amount of time racking your brains.

The Game Modes
Classic—create 10 sets in the least amount of time to try and beat your best time
Puzzle—find 4 (basic) or 6 (advanced) sets in the least amount of time
Timed—find as many sets as you can within 2 minutes
Arcade—find as many as sets as possible before time runs out; receive a 30 second bonus for every level completed.

My favorite is Classic because I don’t have time constraints and can play with a more relaxed approach. While local scores are kept for each mode and difficulty level, it would be ideal to include online scoring in the future so you can see how good or not so good when compared to everyone else. Other than in Puzzle mode, the cards are replaced with new cards once a match is made.

As mentioned, SET is a game about visual perception and after playing this a few times, the game can be addictive. There are four ways to create sets: color, symbol, number and shading.

Color: Each card is red, green, or purple.
Symbol: Each card contains ovals, squiggles, or diamonds.
Number: Each card has one, two, or three symbols.
Shading: Each card is solid, outlined, or striped.

A set of three cards can either have the same feature on each card or the feature is different on each card, which adds quite of challenge, and requires a good deal of concentration. SET is not a game where you can randomly tap on a few cards and hope for the best. One great feature is the Hint function which can be turned on/off. Whenever you make a wrong match, a brief explanation appears stating why there is no match. For me, this is extremely helpful in learning the facets of the game. During the game, a timer and a separate set counter are included to show sets completed and sets remaining.

In line with online scoring, multiplayer functionality would be a good real-time option to see who can complete sets the fastest, and it would provide an additional mode to gameplay. Also, the devs may want to consider adding new themes and symbols that would offer more variety and complement the different backgrounds already offered.

If you’re looking for a potentially addictive game that will force you to use your brain cells, then SET is worth considering. The concept is simple, yet challenging enough that should appeal for puzzlers and non-puzzlers alike.

Albie Meter: 4 stars (recommended for those looking for the next brain bender that is challenging in its simplicity)


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