I had a ton of fun playing Progress, but I had even more fun watching other people play it.
The iOS puzzler from Swedish indie studio Ludosity uses your iPad, iPhone, or iPod in all kinds of clever ways. While Progress doesn’t last a long time, the joy is in its playfulness and re-playability — especially laughing at your friends and family as they poke their noses on the screen, pretend to ride a horse on the ceiling, and try to figure out what “Mind the gap” actually means.
Progress is essentially a series of 100 different screens that you need to turn white in order to … erm … progress. Some of the screens are ridiculously easy to get past while a few are frustratingly obtuse, at least until you realize you’ve been missing something simple all along. Together, these 100 screens make up one the year’s most surprising and delightful mobile releases.
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What you’ll like
It’s pretty darn ingenious
I don’t want to spoil too much, but Progress uses most of the standard gaming features on your iOS device — particularly the accelerometers — in all kinds of clever ways. It also uses features you wouldn’t normally associate with a game. It’s extremely playful stuff, and it had me moving around the house, dancing in slow circles, and searching for plug points. It’s not a game you can play sat in one place.
While none of the puzzles are super tough to figure out, you might still get stuck at points. I spent a good five minutes on a screen that read “Mind the Gap” before I stumbled upon a (sort of) hidden hint system that helped me get past. And don’t talk to me about screen 99. Seriously, I spent about ten minutes on it, getting increasingly red-faced and fraught. My daughter came home from school and solved it in ten seconds. Kids, eh?
The smart sounds and crisp visuals
Progress has a female host who pops up throughout the 100 screens. I didn’t recall her from the previous time I played the game — a beta build I checked out at Casual Connect Europe — and I was unsure of her role when I started out this time around. By the midway point, though — and certainly by the end — I was totally sold on this character’s involvement.
Progress also has a lot of cool, hand-crafted sound effects that help make your device come alive in your hands. The smart sounds complement the simple, monochromatic visuals, combining to make a neat, stylish package.
What you won’t like
It’s pretty short
Progress costs three bucks from the Apple App Store. It took me exactly 52 minutes to go from screen 1 to screen 100, including taking a break for a cup of tea and answering a phone call from my wife along the way. If you look at it as less than an hour’s entertainment, you might question Progress’ value proposition.
But once you’ve finished playing, you’re bound to want to show the game to someone else, get it out after dinner to try with friends, or even play it through again for kicks. Playing Progress in a group — or watching someone else figuring it all out — is as entertaining as playing the game yourself. When you factor in all the little moments of joy you’ll get along the way, that three bucks really doesn’t seem so steep.
Erm … you might end up breaking your iPad
Progress turns your iOS device into a physical toy, and it might make you do stuff you shouldn’t, depending on your impulsiveness. After so many screens of doing what I was told and learning to look for unexpected solutions, the game flashing up “Stand on it” was really kind of mean. Luckily, my brain overruled my primal impulses and I wasn’t a few hundred bucks down.
Progress is the smartest use of an iPad I’ve seen in a long while. The experience doesn’t last long, but it’s sure as heck fun along the way. Played alone, it’ll make you smile and think. Played with friends, it’ll make you laugh out loud. It’s a single-player game that’s also social in a real, physical sense, and that’s something worth celebrating.
Progress is available now on iPad, iPhone, and iPod. You’ll need the latest version of iOS in order to play it. The developer sent GamesBeat a digital code of the game for the purposes of this review.