My favorite games on the iOS App Store continue the trend that Nintendo’s Wii started in 2006; they utilize simplistic, natural controls to create engaging experiences that almost everyone can play, but few can master. Only a handful of developers have handled this as well as Semi Secret, who defined an entire genre with the “endless runner” known as Canabalt. These mad geniuses of design have returned with Hundreds, which might be their easiest/hardest game to date.
The rule set of Hundreds is as simple as they come. Touching a circle will make it grow in size and in value; the player clears a particular puzzle when the circles add up to 100. If a growing circle touches another circle or object on the screen, it’s game over.
Semi Secret uses this easily-understood base to construct layers of devilish challenges. Some circles are chained together, and can’t grow unless both are pressed at the same time. Other circles bounce around the field with spinning blades, resetting the point value of anything they touch. The game takes the minimalist route and doesn’t explain any of the curveballs it doles out; instead, players are encouraged to poke, prod, and experiment to see how they can overcome and even take advantage of these new challenges. Instead of assuming its players are idiots, Hundreds treats our intelligence with a level of respect seldom seen in most apps on the platform.
Hundreds also offers a second challenge to the mentally gifted members of its audience. Progressing through the 100 levels unlocks a series of increasingly cryptic “messages.” As of this writing, they still haven’t been decoded, but it’s only a matter of time before the community comes together and discovers the secret buried beneath an already-impressive experience. It’s no Fez, but who doesn’t enjoy a good mystery?
Hundreds is the first great game of 2013. It’s a challenging puzzle box wrapped in a gorgeous, simplistic presentation that allows anyone to pick it up and understand exactly what they’re doing. Just a few minutes with Hundreds will help you understand why iOS is one of the modern gaming behemoths.
Originally published on Press X or Die on January 4, 2013.