Designing Chase the Numbers
Several years ago I watched a video of a chimpanzee playing a memory game on a touch monitor and performing astonishingly well, even better than humans that tried the same task.
The game was created by scientists, who wanted to study the memory of chimpanzees and how it compared to humans’. (There is also a longer video of a similar experiment, which gives more information). It was a really impressive, to say the least! The chimp in the video plays really fast, and succeeds 90% of the time.
When I started designing mini-games for A Clockwork Brain, I remembered that video and decided to do a game that was based on it. So, I started working on the game design, and came up with a set of attributes and twists that shaped up the final game.
The game presents a grid of wooden tiles, which have a number engraved on one side and are blank on the other side. The sides with the numbers are shown briefly and then the tiles are flipped, hiding the numbers.
The player has to memorize the numbers and their positions and then tap on them in ascending order.
Difficulty & Progression
Even though the original game seen in the video looks pretty simple, it provided a very good basis to build upon. The numbers there were 1 to 9, and seemed to be randomly placed in an invisible grid.
In Chase the Numbers, the levels start with much fewer tiles, 5 in total, and gradually increase up to 7. The numbers on the tiles are not only 1-digit numbers and they do not necessarily belong to a n, n+1, n+2, … sequence. For example, a valid sequence can be 2, 5, 6, 9, 12, 13.
The more difficult the level, the larger the numbers used, and the larger the difference between each adjacent pair. Also, in latter levels the tiles are spaced out more, which makes it harder for the brain to create a virtual line that connects the tiles in ascending order.
Finally, the tile size becomes smaller and smaller as the game progresses, and the duration of how long the numbers are visible, before the tiles are turned over, also decreases in harder levels.
Chase the Numbers became a much more complex game than the one that inspired its creation. In addition to all the attributes mentioned above, an important twist was added: dice faces.
In medium/hard levels, instead of actual numbers (arabic numerals) the tiles sometimes contain pips (dots) that correspond to a number, just like on regular die. The numbers used here go from 1 to 9. When using die faces instead of actual numbers, there are less tiles on the screen, because the brain has to translate the symbols into numbers, which means that it takes more time and effort to memorize the board.
In medium/hard levels, typical numerals are replaced with die faces.
Chase the Numbers is a memory game, one that trains working memory in particular. Players have to memorize two different things: the number sequence and the positions of each number on the grid. The element of time is a third dimension that comes in to play, as there is limited time before the tiles are turned over and the numbers are hidden.
During the Insane Round, the game becomes really challenging. The sequence is much longer, reaching 9 numbers (or 7 in die-mode). The tile size becomes even smaller and the tiles are spread apart even more.
You can see for yourself if you can play better than a chimp by trying A Clockwork Brain on iOS!