So minimal, so addictive: the puzzle game ‘Compulsive’


I’ve been knee-deep in stories about war photography, prison literature and human-trafficking operas. Which means I need a break. I’ve found it in a video game called “Compulsive,” which I’ve become compulsively addicted to over the last several days.

It is astonishingly simple: a smartphone/tablet puzzle game in which a player lines up squares of color until they shatter and make room for more squares. “Compulsive” bears some resemblance, in principle, to matching games such as “Bejeweled” and “Tetris.”

But the design makes it a stand-out. Instead of the gleaming gems of “Bejeweled,” or the brick blocks of “Tetris,” there are only simple, flat bits of color. If Ellsworth Kelly were to design a video game, it would look like this.


“I drew on games like Tetris,” says Todd Moore, of TMSoft, who created “Compulsive.” “But the design and the aesthetics were inspired by the flat, modern design that I’ve seen in things like the ‘Letterpress’ game for iPhone or the new Windows operating systems. It’s all just flat color.”

Clearly it’s worked. The game has had around 2 million downloads and just released its third version, which includes added play experiences.

“The core elements of any game are the mechanics, the graphics and the sound,” Moore says. “I thought it’d be interesting to take away a layer. In this case, the graphics -- the depth and the representation of images.”

It makes for an elegantly addictive play experience -- one that doesn’t have to sully the clean lines of all those hipster iPhones with so much graphic bling.

“Compulsive” is available for Android and iOS. Good luck putting it down.

Twitter: @cmonstah