For such a simple premise Little Alchemy is a delightful, absorbing game, and one that I would happily recommend for kids or adults.
I first discovered Little Alchemy as a Chrome app, and my productivity dropped immediately. It’s with conflicted feelings that I install it on my phone so I can now be distracted and unproductive on the go.
The game is really straightforward. You have four elements (earth, air, fire and water) that you can combine to make new things. Those things can be combined with the original elements and each other to make more things, which can also be combined, and so on. From your original four you eventually wind up with over five hundred substances, constructions or concepts.
You combine elements by just dragging one on top of the other. If there’s something to be made from this combination it’ll appear in your list, and adds to the substances you can combine – dropping fire onto water gets you steam, but then dropping your newly-made steam onto air will get you something else, for example.
The game can be frustrating at times, and you’ll likely find yourself stuck more than once. While some of the combinations are pretty obvious (fire + water = steam), some of them are a bit more obscure, or require some lateral thinking (I won’t spoil it by giving examples). But the trade-off for this occasional frustration is the surprise and thrill of an unexpected combination result.
The design of the game is really nice, with all the icons illustrated in a cute, consistent style. The controls are very easy (just one-fingered drag & drop), although occasionally on a smaller screen you’ll miss the object you were trying to move and grab the one next to it, if they’re overlapping.
Having played Little Alchemy both on my phone and my laptop, I’m of the opinion that it really needs as big a screen as you have available. Playing it on the computer I’d regularly fill the screen with the various elements I thought I might need at hand to get something new, and doing this on a phone screen only means your reach that saturation point sooner. It’s totally playable on your phone, but the Chrome app slightly edges it out for this one reason.
Little Alchemy is free, and it’s fun. You could even convince yourself it’s educational if you needed more justification to get it. But you don’t – this game is worth it for the entertainment alone. Get it on your phone, your computer, tattooed on your chest even. You won’t regret it.*
*You might regret the tattoo, actually. But getting the app is a safe bet. Maybe start with that.