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It's staggering to think that Hundreds began life on anything other than a capacitive interface, but this multitouch magnum opus has unexpected origins as a mouse-based web game. Granted, the ball-expanding puzzler has been revised and refined significantly since that inauspicious debut, resulting in an experience that is perfectly centered around the touch of a finger. Brought to the App Store by a dream team of indie designers, including those behind favorites like Canabalt and Gasketball, Hundreds is one of the smartest and most satisfying touch-based games I've ever played, particularly on an iPad.
Each stage focuses on growing the visible balls until they cumulatively reach the total of 100, which is helpfully displayed in progress upon the stark off-white backdrops. Tapping and holding any ball makes it expand, but mindless magnification will only get you in trouble, as touching nearly anything else on the screen with an active ball will trigger immediate defeat. As such, you'll need to watch the other moving balls and myriad hazards that appear as the game's 100 stages progress in difficulty, and Hundreds only spends so long easing you into the mechanics before expecting excellence.
Along the way, I laughed, cheered, shouted obscenities, and feigned punching and throwing my iPad – but still never felt like I hit a wall with the increasingly precise challenges, thanks to the pitch-perfect way that Hundreds gradually unravels its new elements without a hint of overt tutorial. Its minimalist aesthetic boasts such a strong visual language that when you see something new on the screen – be it steadily-shrinking circles, spinning razors that deflate balls, or a snowflake that'll freeze any moving object in place – it takes only a moment to learn how it fits into the world, and another to start scheming ways to work around it.
And as the stack of set levels is nearly toppled, you'll unlock a great new variation in endless mode, which tosses in fresh balls and obstacles with each 100 notched onward and upward. Hundreds also serves up odd, decodable messages along the way – first in English, but later using symbols – that can be solved by moving the letters and symbols around the screen. But that's just a bonus and luckily optional layer atop a brilliantly designed and cleverly accessible puzzler, one that sets a new standard for such touch-based experiences.
One caveat, however: Hundreds is notably best enjoyed on the larger screen of the iPad. Much as the universal app still looks the part on an iPhone or iPod touch, its precision and challenge feel amplified on a smaller display, and your finger is much more likely to get in the way. An added flash of red around any initially touched ball is a helpful measure to try and counteract that issue, but if you have an iPad handy, make that your primary platform of choice.
The bottom line. Ingeniously conceived and expertly executed, Hundreds is one of the very best iOS games to date.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later
Fantastic puzzle concept with near-flawless multitouch execution. Beautifully minimalist design shows instead of telling. Endless mode keeps things interesting later on, plus unlockable messages challenge the die-hards.
More difficult to play on an iPhone or iPod touch.