This week, I’ve decided to let the App Store and Google Play recommendation algorithms decide what I’ll be playing. As with any recommendation algorithm, the logic behind every one of these picks is entirely flawless.
Calculator 2: The Game, the sequel to Calculator: The Game, a game I’d never played or ever really heard of prior to now, was my first recommendation. Already the algorithm is killing it, suggesting for me –a man without a proper maths qualification – a game all about messing with numbers and stuff.
I load it up and am put into a tutorial with a very smiley-faced rectangle. They go through the basics, offering me two responses to every hint – typically something along the lines of “yup” or “huh?”. Though, quite honestly, I’m disappointed to find that the latter option doesn’t allow me to sufficiently derail things.
The puzzles start out easy enough; I’m feeling all smart for the first five or so. I can add, subtract, and even multiply like you wouldn’t believe – so I’m flying. But then, to my utter disgust, it has to go and spoil it all by introducing factors I’m just not equipped to handle.
I soon find myself out of hints, cornered, and about ready to lash out. Numbers flash before my eyes; memories of high school maths swirling, whirling around me. Having long since lost all passion for the profession, my teacher quietly returns my unit paper – highlighting exactly what needs changing. And yet, against all the odds, I pass the paper back with even more stupefying errors.
Fast-forward 5 years in an instant: I’m on that dour Countdown stage with Rachel Riley smiling down at me as she awaits my impossibly dumb solutions. Panicked and peeved, I start spamming combinations. There are a very limited number of potential solutions to each answer, I think to myself; I can surely win this if I just keep at it.
Somehow this doesn’t work, leaving me with no option but to actually attempt to solve the puzzles. I come shockingly close to what I think is a respectable answer. Everything is lining up. My logic is sound. And then… no, just totally and wildly off. By this point, Rachel and the film crew have up and left for the day, and I’m suddenly alone and screaming in the dark.
This cute little game lulled me into a false sense of security, made me feel good, then pulled the rug from under me and laughed as I tumbled to the ground, wailing the 4 times table as I went. If I were a Metacritic user reviewer, I’d call that a slap in the face.
Some might say the game is actually a really smart and well-designed puzzler that I’m probably just too stupid to play, but we all know those people are dead wrong.
So, all in all, I think this algorithm idea is off to a great start.