The brains behind Canabalt are not abandoning their affinity for grayscale, as their recent release of Hundreds suggests. But Semi Secret Software has splurged for a shade of very ominous red, too. In this intermingling of colors, Hundreds delivers a straightforward puzzle experience about circles and their need for expansion. While the game also provides a steep challenge that requires quick fingers and a cool head, the often unfair frustrations that arise in relation to the number of retries will have one’s patience reaching its boiling point.
Round one introduces players to their only objective: accumulate 100 points, which the game totals in the background. As you touch any of the gray circles that populate each level, their sizes increase in response to their respective numbers, though their colors change from a neutral tone to a more vibrant red as well. The level ends when the sum of the various orbs equals 100, or when a crimson sphere brushes anything but the screen’s borders.
I think that "unwind your mind" tagline could use some work; perhaps, "Give yourself an aneurysm."
The early rounds limit the chaos to a couple circles, but eventually, players must track upwards of 10 or 20 as they ricochet off one another. I have yet to mention Semi Secret's idea of hazards, which seek to excite (or upset) one’s coffee break, morning commute, or likewise periods of relaxation. Bubbles must be popped, often before the first move can be made; pucks must be maneuvered about the stage, though they remain firmly in place when not under your impression; and circles conjoined by an unbreakable line must be tapped simultaneously.
For added measure, inject the challenge of a game such as Super Meat Boy. Circles that stay red regardless of one’s inputs and snowflakes that freeze anything they bump are less agonizing than the rest of Hundreds' threats. The rotating saw blades make for the most infuriating “enemies” of 2013 so far. These obnoxious little shurikens reset each circle they graze, and when they are rapidly bouncing around the screen, frequently reducing your sums to zero, those select levels undermine the dexterity of the most nimble-fingered players.
There are elements of common sense to Hundreds. For example, you can permanently pause (freeze) the irritating black circles once out of the gray circles' inflation range.
Although Hundreds sends a difficult message not for the faint of heart, not every round will break players' morale. A majority of the levels, which unlock in rows of 10, can be overcome through a little patience and recognizing when to gather points from one massive circle or several smaller ones.
This tactic gives birth to Hundreds’ real brilliance. The game communicates all of its information without ever resorting to text. Rather, the genius behind Hundreds lies in the experimentation, because players learn to interact with the array of circles through simple observation. Pucks and bubbles offer immunity to the blades’ deleterious effects, allowing you to fence off parts of the screen, and circles currently frozen in ice repulse others, be they red or gray. Even when I eclipsed the halfway mark, picking my way through stages in the 60s and 70s, I still encountered variations on the enemy designs and exciting combinations that could be used to best them.
The very idea of the number 100 implies more than a game as simple as Hundreds lets on, yet the name remains surprisingly applicable. For starters, there are hundreds of possibilities – based on each circle’s momentum – in which to complete or fail every included level. Some rounds may also require 100 attempts before you see into their madness. And for $2.99, there’s a good price-to-playtime ratio here. Still a bit costly it would seem, but Hundreds starts the App Store off on a strong foot this year. Let’s see the rest of the puzzle genre pick up its stride.
Publisher: Semi Secret Software
Developer: Semi Secret Software
Release Date: January 3, 2013
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign)
Platforms: iOS (Reviewed)