It all starts with a circle. The very first level of Hundreds, a new puzzle game for iPhone and iPad launched today at a promotional price of $ 2.99, contains nothing more than a gray circle with the number zero in the middle. No instructions are given to you. But when you touch it, the number starts to increase and the circle gets bigger. Once it hits 100, you’ve beaten the level. It’s a simple and natural way to introduce players to the central purpose of the game: at each stage, all circles must total 100 before they can move on. And this is a perfect example of Hundreds‘focus on a minimalist design. There are no tutorials because the controls are intuitive enough to be understood just by experimenting. Even the game’s title screen is little more than a white circle on a red background. But despite this simplicity, or maybe because of it, Hundreds is an addicting and challenging puzzle game that can stand up to the best of iOS.
Of course, things get a bit more complex once you get past that very first level. When you touch a circle, not only does it start to grow, but it turns red as long as you hold your finger on it, and if it touches anything while it’s red, you’ll have to start over. Again, it sounds simple and easy to understand, but when you throw in some extra challenges like rotating saw blades, circles that can only grow in parallel, circles with negative numbers, and all kinds of obstacles for get in the way (or help you out), the challenge quickly rises. As with this initial level, almost none of these elements are explained to you in words, but instead a combination of experimentation and subtle visual cues will let you know that bubbles can be popped with a simple tap, or that you can move an obstacle with your finger. These elements help make the base premise consistently compelling over the course of 100 levels.
“I just really wanted to help create a great touchscreen game. “
Hundreds was developed by Semi Secret Software and is the result of a collaboration between a few notable developers from the iOS gaming community. Adam Saltsman, best known for Canabalt, did much of the design work, while Greg Wohlwend – who has previously worked on games like Joint ball and Solipskier – created the art and the interface (as well as the incredible site). Meanwhile, Semi Secret’s Eric Johnson served as programmer and musician Scott “Loscil” Morgan created the ambient score for the game. Hundreds has been in the works since mid-2011 and started life as a Flash prototype, although the initial goal wasn’t necessarily to bring another puzzle game to iOS. “With Hundreds I just wanted to help make a great touchscreen game, “Saltsman says.” It ended up being a puzzle game. “
Saltsman’s experiment with the one-button shot Canabalt also taught him that sometimes simple is better, hence the strong minimalist tone found throughout Hundreds. “I could still be wrong, but I think overloading a design with unnecessary stuff can be a huge distraction for people who aren’t used to this sort of thing,” he says. “When you cut fat, often boring things like tutorials or anything that can be cut too.” At least in the case of Hundreds, this theory turns out to be correct – at no point did I find myself unable to understand what to do or how a particular mechanic operated. Everything clicked.
On a platform that has provided an embarrassment of wealth when it comes to terrific puzzle games – Drop7, Edge, and Triple city, to only cite a few – Hundreds clearly has its work cut out for it to try and stand out. But that’s not something the team worries about. “Hundreds has issues, to be fair, but I don’t think standing out is one of them, ”says Saltsman. “Our goal was simply to create the purest touchscreen game possible – no ‘transmedia synergy’, no level fill, no IAP, no microtransactions. I think the result is somewhat naturally something that doesn’t have much in common with most puzzle games on the App Store. really “wants to bring Hundreds to Android at some point.
“Take the numbers out and the game would play out exactly the same.”
Depending on the name and purpose of each step, Hundreds may seem like a number-obsessed game, but the creators don’t necessarily see it that way. Instead, they see it as a game about “spatial relationships, the principle of conservation, and even a little entropy.” “Take the numbers out,” Wohlwend explains, “and the game would play out exactly the same. It’s really a game about circles and how they interact with each other within the rules of the game. Yeah, maybe it’s just circles. “But again,” Saltsman pointed out, “Tetris is just squares. “