Progress to 100 is a $2.99 game for , and if you trust my opinion, you should buy it right now, play it and then read this story. I'll refrain from spoiling as much as possible, but going into the game completely blind increases the enjoyment to be found in its clever and often delightful design.
While most mobile games treat your phone as a window into another world, Progress to 100 treats your phone as an object in your hand. You're given a few words on the screen as a hint, and then you have to interact with the screen or the phone itself in order to move forward. There are 100 puzzles. They are not easy.
It can be tricky to wrap your head around, and every example ruins a puzzle, but here's the trailer to get you started.
"The game looks really simple and works just as you expect it to, so a lot of people assume that it’s something that we made in a few weeks or less," designer and developer Tim Garbos told Polygon. "To be honest, it took quite a lot longer."
It also required a very different approach to mobile design, one that addressed the whole phone and what it can do.
"When you look at a phone or a keyboard you just see a tool. We often forget to use our imagination and just see things as what they are being used for, instead of what they can be used for," he explained.
"You see a couch as something you sit on, while others might see it as the first pillar of a pillow fortress," Garbos continued. "I decided to look at the iPhone as a little playful magic box full of possibilities and it became just that ... You are not playing a game on the screen, you are playing a game together with a little magic box."
Which is how you create a game where people find themselves doing this:
He actually ran out of ideas after coming up with, and playtesting, 50 puzzles. Designing puzzles that didn't break the rule of only having a few words of text on the screen proved to a much greater challenge than expected.
Progress to 100 was created by a four-person team, and ultimately they all kicked in to come up with ideas, and they made it to the finish line. "Some weeks I couldn't come up with a single new puzzle and I really struggled, but somehow Joel Nyström and Martin Kvale kept me motivated and we steadily progressed towards 100 together and everyone pitched in with ideas," Garbos said. "I started working even closer with Martin Kvale on the audio and new [sound-based] puzzles started forming. A lot of friends and playtesters also pitched. It would never have been possible without them."
There was one puzzle that stumped a surprising amount of players. The words on the screen were simple: "Call me."
"The solution is to actually get a friend to call your phone while keeping the game running," Garbos explained. "This solution comes as a surprise to almost every player even though phones are all about calling friends. It's obviously also quite tricky, but the players have been quite committed to making it to 100 percent."
What struck me about the game wasn't just how clever the puzzles became, but how social and friendly the game felt. Try to play with your kids or friends, put the device down, let everyone see the words and then try to talk about the solution as people take turns trying different things. Your eyes aren't locked on the phone; it merely becomes a device that facilitates a certain kind of play that's often lacking in the adult world.
"I've been experimenting with alternative inputs for a few years and with Progress to 100 I wanted to make a game that would make you look at your phone in a more playful way," Garbos said. "Let's hope that developers and players keep exploring what we can do with games."