Curiosity for iOS is a game, but also a social experiment

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The name Peter Molyneux may not ring a bell, but gamers have likely encountered his creations before. Those include hits like the Fable franchise, Black & White, and Dungeon Keeper. You may say that he knows a thing or two about designing entertaining software.

Molyneux’s latest effort, published through new studio 22cans, has just landed on iOS (and Android), bringing a new kind of massively multiplayer experience to mobile platforms. Curiosity is a free game and social experiment that combines the satisfaction of popping bubble wrap with the challenge of working together with other users towards a common goal.

Tapping the cubelets is a bit like popping bubble wrap: Satisfying and oddly addictive.

The game takes place on a cube, which is made up of billions of smaller “cubelets” that must be popped by tapping them with your fingers, revealing layer upon layer of information until—eventually—one player will reach the cube’s center and learn its secret, which the app hints to be something deeply profound.

As you may have surmised, Curiosity is not your typical game. For one thing, it is completely free—there are no in-app purchases, or hidden costs of any kind. In fact, as you pop cubelets left and right, you earn coins that can subsequently be spent one of several power-ups, such as bombs and chisels, that help you proceed through the layers more quickly. Curiously, you also need to pay a small sum of virtual currency if you want to access the game’s statistics.

If tapping your screen billions of times doesn’t sound appealing, you’ll be happy to know that you’re not going at it alone. The massively-multiplayer nature of the game means that you cooperate in your efforts with hundreds—maybe even thousands—of other players who chisel away alongside you, often carving intricate patterns by picking the cubelets they pop with caution and patience. You can even invite your friends to play alongside you through Facebook.

In a quiet area that is not being actively mined by others, it's easy to leave your mark. 

Each new layer brings a new image—sometimes a photograph of food, sometimes a collage of pictures, sometimes a strange colour pattern. This gives the game some variety and keeps players coming back as they attempt to keep an eye on things, even though progress is slow—during my brief stint with the game, I only managed to go through three layers, one of which showed what looked like a bean salad.

The app’s distant goal means that players must find a more immediate way to satisfy themselves, be it to plug away at the cubelets like a big sheet of bubble wrap, or making their mark by turning the faces of the cube into an elaborate mosaic. Still, it is oddly addictive—once you get started popping blocks, it’s difficult to stop—why, you may even miss your deadline for filing a story on the game. Twice.

When someone does eventually reach the inside of the innermost cube and discover whatever is hidden there, 22cans says it will be up to that user whether to share what he or she discovers. That is, unless the final victor chooses to share what’s inside the box, we may never know.

Curiosity is a Univeral app that can be downloaded for free from the App Store.

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