Shortly after I got my smartphone, Robin got me into the oddly addictive Little Alchemy game. It’s free, and it’s available for iPhone and Android (through Google Play); you can also play online.
The rules of play are simple. You start with four elements: air, earth, fire, and water, which appear as icons on your screen. By adding any two elements together, you get another “element,” which may or may not be combinable in turn. Elements are added by dragging one over another, at which point either nothing happens (because they don’t make something new), or a new icon appears in their place. You can add an element to itself; air + air = pressure, for example. There are 560 things you can make, plus one bonus item (which I found about halfway through.) You’ll find yourself dropping and dragging whenever you have a few minutes to spare, hoping to create one more element.
The screen shows the elements you’ve already made on the right; the left side of the screen is for combining elements. A counter at the bottom lets you know how many elements you’ve made out of the possible 560. (The screenshot was apparently taken during an earlier iteration of the game, when only 500 elements could be created.) You can set the library to show either all the elements you’ve created, or only the ones that can actually be combined; “final elements” are the end of the road and can’t be used to create other elements. You can also choose to have final elements underlined, so you can tell them apart. “Flood” in the screenshot is a final element.
By the way, the game uses the term “element” very freely. While the initial four elements were considered fundamental alchemical elements, many of the things you can create in the game aren’t “elements” in either the physics or alchemical sense: rain, flood, or isle, for example.
Some of the formulas are intuitive, some much less so, but they all make a peculiar kind of sense when you think about it, like the aforementioned air + air = pressure. And some of the things you can create will make you laugh, or at least chuckle in delight. There are also things you should be able to make, but can’t. Based on some of the fictional/mythical creatures I discovered, I thought for sure that “monkey + skyscraper” would create King Kong, but alas, the designers missed that one.
I’m sure everyone has their own approach to solving the game. I tried to work logically, adding one thing to everything else in the library of elements I had already created, but of course as you get more and more elements, it’s harder and harder to keep track of what you have and haven’t added together. If you get stuck, try the official hints site, which will give you a random hint; if you’ve already made it, just ask for the next hint. There are also some other sites around that say they list all 560 compounds, but most of them are actually missing some. If you want a list of what you can make, so you can see what you haven’t created yet, the best site I’ve found is the unofficial littlealchemyguide.com. Since its hints are hidden, you can compare their list with what you’ve already made and try to figure out how to create the “elements” you are missing. I think it’s more challenging to work that way than by getting a hint, and I wish I had found that site before I completed the game.
Which brings me to the only real drawback of the game: Once you’ve created all the elements, including the bonus, there’s nothing left to do. I wish the game designer(s) had a suggestion box where people could suggest new compounds, like my King Kong idea. If they collected enough of them, they could add them to the existing game or even offer an extension you could purchase. Given how much fun I had playing, I would gladly pay $1.99 for 100 new elements to discover.
Bottom line: if you’re looking for a free, simple, one-person game app suitable for children and adults, download Little Alchemy. And be prepared to get totally addicted.