One Hundred Ways Review

By Mark Delaney,
There's been much debate about whether the Xbox One's open door policy regarding downloadable and indie games is a benefit or detriment to the console's overall ecosystem. Programs like ID@Xbox and the brand's generally inviting disposition has led to games coming to the download front on what seems like almost a daily basis. Such a policy mirrors those on phones and tablets. Bite-sized and often casual games are welcome to join the fray alongside the AAA titles and more substantial downloadable games that would have once been XBLA titles. I've been a major proponent of the lack of curation on the store. "Let the gamers decide what is and isn't worth playing, and let anything onto the platform that is looking for access," I've thought.

One Hundred Ways (OHW) is a prime example of an exception to such a rule. The game was once exclusive to PC platforms before spreading to mobile. Gaming on the computer has long come with the acceptance of a dam-breaking number of games that are constantly flooding the market. This is new to those of us who game only on consoles and OHW is a boring reminder that inherently "mobile" games rarely carry the appeal of a well-produced console title.

ohw 1

OHW is an isometric puzzle game that tasks players with finding ways of getting a black and red ball to its finish line using somewhat Rube Goldbergian tools. Contrary to its name, the game offers over one hundred levels, each of which have their own solutions and some of which can even be completed in multiple ways. Using speed ramps, launcher pads, redirecting launcher pads, and elastic fences, you'll be tasked with getting from A to B over 100 times. The ball moves very slowly at its base speed, although it's sometimes sped up or slowed down in order to solve the game's dozens of puzzles. Occasionally some puzzles would feel genuinely well designed. My progress was stalled multiple times but, sadly, for every stump-worthy puzzle there were two that were boringly simple, and often another that seemed to rewrite the physics of the game.

OHW reveals its mechanisms of puzzle solving all within the first few levels and rewrites them (or not) over and over again, dozens of times. Very little in the way of new approaches are offered throughout the game's 100+ levels. Maybe the greatest sin that a puzzle game can commit is to give players a puzzle that can be figured out at first glance, thus making the player drag his or her feet through the multi-step process that is needed to finish it. A puzzle that takes little time and even less effort is no puzzle at all and OHW offers a lot of such "puzzles".

The game's problems can actually be seen and heard right away as it's quite unappealing to see and hear. The visuals have been upgraded over its mobile counterpart, but only slightly. With white tiles and scientific looking tools at your disposal, levels carry a laboratory aesthetic. The game is no better to listen to than it is to witness. The same single song can be heard across the game's 100+ levels. It's the only tune that the game offers and it's accompanied by some terrible, often delayed audio design that is so minimal that had me reaching for the mute button.

ohw 3"Tube City. You owe me one." - Michael Scott

Alongside predominantly boring puzzles and barely-there audio, the control scheme lends itself to frustration. At the top of a level is the game's menu with things like accessing your inventory of tools, playing the level, pausing the level, and restarting. On a mobile device with touch controls, having these laid out laterally isn't a hassle. However, moving through menus with a controller for so much of the game while also navigating a less than responsive grid system within each puzzle results in playtime feeling like it's largely spent on a pause screen.

Much of the game can be summarized succinctly by looking at its level introductions. At the onset of each puzzle, a text box greets you featuring the monologues of a robot that is meant to tease what's ahead in the level. These were often nonsensical, completely missing the mark of their intended humor and full of grammatical and spelling errors. Sometimes it would be small things — a missed space between sentences or a word that is not capitalized. Other times, though, it would be so far from what it was trying to say that I wasn't even sure where it was going. Sunlight Games is not a natively English speaking studio, but these sorts of localization issues aren't so easily overlooked when they devalue the console marketplace. At some point, English speaking or not, it seems that tasking or outsourcing someone to fix these misfired attempts at personality should have been a priority. What's left is just a mess, like most of the game.

ohw 2...What?

Although I don't factor achievement lists into my opinion on games, one saving grace that the game does have among the readers of this community is its easy achievement list. There are 15 achievements in total and each of them is given through completing a certain block of puzzles. The first one is also essentially a freebie, as the first ten levels act as the tutorial while providing no real puzzles and merely introducing the game's mechanics. If you manage to get through all of the puzzles, impeded rarely by brain-busting but often rather boredom, you'll find yourself another completion and 1000 G for your gamertag.

Summary

One Hundred Ways is a stark reminder that in this new age of consoles, not all indies are darlings and not all games on the Xbox marketplace are worthy of such a home. It's a game that might have been fun in waiting rooms or in transit someplace, but in a home setting on an Xbox One, I can't think of one good reason why anybody would want to play this. It's a boring, aesthetically nauseating slog through puzzles that more often annoy than challenge.
4 / 10
One Hundred Ways
Positives
  • Lots of levels
  • A few genuinely well designed puzzles
Negatives
  • Most puzzles are predictable
  • Physics of the puzzles are often unclear or feel rewritten
  • Frustrating control scheme
  • Spelling and grammatical errors galore
  • Just one song plays during the whole game
Ethics
The reviewer spent over seven hours trudging through puzzles, collecting seven of the game's 15 achievements for 260 gamerscore. An Xbox One digital copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.