Review: Cotrio review – A numerical puzzler that soothes as much as it taxes

As a confirmed words guy, I don’t really do numbers unless I absolutely have to. You know, like when I have to do my taxes or count how many sleeps until holiday.

For a numerical puzzler to really makes me sit up and take notice, then, it needs to have a certain something to it.

Threes was the last number puzzler that really grabbed my attention, and while Cotrio isn’t quite at that level of all-embracing brilliance, it’s certainly got that something.

Pyramid scheme

The idea here is to fill a pyramid of six circles with a constant randomised loop of three random values – for example -1, 6, and 8 – in a bid to make two adjacent values add up to the third.

These values accumulate as you add them to the fields, so a 6 on top of a -1 would result in a 5. In this way you can balance out the numbers.

Once done, the target field is highlighted and the values reset to zero, enabling you to switch your attention to filling all the other fields in the pyramid.

This all sounds simple enough, but there are two key restrictions that keep things interested. One is a basic move count, which dissuades you from racking up massive numbers and encourages you to try and score combos.

The other is the fact that laying two numbers of the same value next to each other means instant game over. Surprisingly, it was the latter stipulation that caught out most times, as I carelessly put a pair of sixes adjacent to one another.

Counting sheep

The fact that positional awareness is as important to Cotrio as basic mathematical skills is perhaps why I found the game so compelling.

I soon started to develop strategies and approaches that had more to do with the shape of the field and the limits of the rules than any mad multiplication skills. I also found myself trying to ‘solve’ each level by establishing simple combinations of numbers.

Another thing that keeps you playing Cotrio is the fact that it’s so pleasant and downright calming to play. You solve each puzzle over a fresh minimalist dreamscape, all while being soothed by the kind of sparse twanging guitar score that would send you to sleep in a spa.

It’s all unassumingly lovely, and that extends to its sharp help screen and progress UI.

Out for the count

Cotrio doesn’t have the tactile appeal or instantly graspable gameplay of the very finest numerical puzzlers (Threes again).

It takes a little while to grasp its strange rules, and it doesn’t really develop significantly beyond its initial set of ideas – though there is an optional Challenge mode that doesn’t reset the values at any point.

But that core premise is rather intriguing and very well executed indeed. If you’re after a fresh contemplative puzzler, you don’t need to be a maths whizz to appreciate Cotrio‘s charms.