Hundreds [$4.99] could almost get away without an explanation. Here's how the first level plays: you put your finger down on a circle. It starts growing, and a number counts up. When it hits 100, you win. You will never need a tutorial—anyone can learn to play.

Audaciously simple, no? Of course, Adam Saltsman and Greg Wohlwend are both old hat at making amazing things from simple beginnings. Canabalt, anyone? Puzzlejuice? Don't go thinking Hundreds is just any old thing. The pair, along with composer Scott Morgan and developer Eric Johnson, have teased out every possible bit of complex fun one can have counting circles up to 100. For a hundred levels and beyond, Hundreds lives up to its pedigree.

The game never lets its players grow complacent. You master counting up with one circle, then more. You learn that if you're pressing on one circle when it hits anything else on screen, you'll fail. You then find variations—circles that need to be pressed in pairs, circles that shrink when you release them, spikes that kill your circles and ice-crystals that freeze them. There is never a time in those hundred levels that Hundreds feels low on ideas.

In fact, the game rarely plays the same for long at all. Some levels require incredibly precise and quick timing. Others will have you holding your breath until the exact moment you can tap one circle or another. My favorites are the cerebral challenges, the ones where the whole trick is just to figure out how on earth you'll turn the available pieces into a full hundred. There's something for everyone, and the game is generous about letting you move forward without mastering every step of the way—just in case the parts that are fun for me are agonizing for you.

I don't want to get into too many specifics—discovering what's in store next is a big part of the fun—but certain levels still have me shaking my head. How, pray tell, am I supposed to do what's needed of me in Level 100? I can see how it's meant to work, but actually making it happen…? You'll need a steadier touch than mine.

I've temporarily moved on to the game's other challenge: its ciphers. Every so often, after you complete a handful of levels, the game spits out a string of gibberish. Once you find those tucked away for safekeeping you can start decoding them. Do you know how to handle a simple substitution cipher? That's a start, but you're nearly inevitably going to need help. Read up, or visit our discussion thread for handy (and occasionally spoiler-filled) hints.

The ciphers are an odd addition, one that doesn't fit quite cleanly with the rest of the game. There is a game-related reason to solve them (aside from earning the associated Game Center achievements) but messing about with codes doesn't evoke quite the same feeling as tapping on circles. Both challenges take careful consideration, but in very different directions.

Is this a problem? Not particularly. Without the ciphers, Hundreds is a complete experience. It has 100 finely-crafted curated levels, and an endless mode that lets you play around with all the game's elements in new and exciting combinations. There is no need to pay any mind to the ciphers at all.

With them, one could argue that the game is a more well-rounded puzzle experience. You have your twitch puzzles, your slow, thoughtful puzzles, and puzzles complicated enough that you'll need pen and paper at the ready. If they didn't feel like parts of two utterly distinct games, that argument might be an easier sell. A more likely rationale is that the ciphers give people reasons to discuss Hundreds, a game that wouldn't normally foster much collaborative problem solving.

It's awfully hard to be cynical about this game, though. It provides a thoroughly engaging experience—visually, aurally and mechanically. The reds, greys and blacks may not be marketing gold, but they're striking. The soundtrack is excellent. And above all else, Hundreds is fun to play. It's filled with levels that are truly satisfying to compete. The ciphers, well, they add to that engagement at first, and let it down a bit in the long run. It's a good swing, and not much of a miss.

I'm not much for predicting the future, but since our first glimpse of Hundreds I've had pretty high hopes. Now that I've had a chance to play it through, I can say with more confidence that this game will be on everyone's lips—whether it's as a hidden gem or a standout hit is all that remains to be seen. Let's hope for the latter. A world with gorgeous, complex puzzle games like this at the forefront is a world I'd be happy to live in.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • ImGawd

    Spot on review. Perfect game.

  • toxiccheese

    This game is destined to become an iOS classic. I absolutely love it!

  • mkaen

    Some forum commenters have mentioned that it feels cramped enough as to be unenjoyable on the iPhone. Any thoughts on this?

    • 1Fcm

      Yep. I did not like it on my iPhone, but on my ipad and ipad mini it really shines!

    • http://twitter.com/dayv Dayv!

      It's usually not a problem on my iPhone, but there are a couple levels where I'd love to have a little more space. Level 89 will be the death of me, and I've nearly given up on 83.

  • radlikewhoa

    I can't seem to get past level 30. i can beat it without any problem, but then I can just play that level over and over again, whenever I tap next stage. Anyone else?

    • http://twitter.com/TheMysteryCow Mike Gorman

      I'm having the same problem, but with level 20. The only fix I've heard about is to clear out your progress, but even that didn't work for me.

  • Karzay

    I had no intention to buy this game after hearing about it last week, but if Nissa likes it, it has to be good. It's just that it looks soooo boring.

  • http://twitter.com/TyNoodle Ty Bader

    DEFINITELY not boring. Couldn't put it down. Just finished level 100. Wow. Even the endless mode is pretty sweet!

  • Himmat Singh

    Not sure what to make out of all the hype I've seen on the main page and in the forums, but this just didn't float my boat and was sort of "boring". I do like aesthetically unique puzzlers, but I guess this just wasn't meant for me.

  • JPhilipp

    People always talk about the game but in this case, I just wanted to say: beautifully written review!

  • MidianGTX

    I think it's a fine game, but it's not the mind-blowing success some people are making it out to be. It's a little derivative of other games, can get frustrating at times and despite the switches in gameplay, there's still not that much to it. I doubt I'll go back and play it a second time, but it was worth the money I spent on it.

  • bobcorrigan

    I've been dabbling in Hundreds since it launched, and continue to be impressed at how clean and intuitive it is. It nails one of my major complaints about user interfaces - that they should be self-documenting. Well done - an instant classic in the vein of Tiny Wings and Tilt to Live.

  • rabidnz

    Ill be waiting for a price drop!

    • Igor M

      Exactly. Doesn't seem to be worth $3.

  • Igor M

    So where is the praise for Hungry Sumo? It also can "get away without an explanation", "is fun to play. It's filled with levels that are truly satisfying to compete", etc. But for some reason isn't getting that much hype.

    Honestly, the ass-kissing that TA reviewers do to some indie devs is beyond pathetic.

  • Igor M

    So where is the praise for Hungry Sumo? It also can "get away without
    an explanation", "is fun to play. It's filled with levels that are
    truly satisfying to compete", etc. But for some reason isn't getting
    that much hype.

    Honestly, the ass-kissing that TA reviewers do to some indie devs is beyond pathetic.

  • soundshaper

    Yeah seems like many feel that it's a bit over priced... I'd definitively try it out if it was around 2$... Hope there will be a price drop sometime soon? Super Hexagon is another one that I wanan try out, but same thing though with a price drop... I think 2$ for these type of puzzle like games with good sound & graphics design is probably a minimum, but then 5bux is quite a lot...

Hundreds Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 5