App of the Day: 100 Trials

Chancery.

100 Trials is a spinoff from the same developer's excellent 100 Rogues, but really it's best described as a mission pack. The original is a roguelike for iOS with a slim challenge mode, and it's the latter that 100 Trials expands into a gauntlet of bite-sized puzzles.

Each trial has an assigned rogue, each of which have their own play styles and movesets (which are limited according to the challenge), and presents one objective - often but not always escaping from the level, or killing all monsters. There's no random generation here, either, with each trial fixed in its enemy types and placements.

The challenge is in learning how to predict its enemies, a deceptive-looking bunch that have learned several new tricks since 100 Rogues. Though many sprites make a return appearance, most creatures have slightly rejigged moves and behaviour. Learning how enemies operate is the key skill, and they all have behaviour that is predictable up to a point but with one or two surprising kinks to take unwary players off-guard.

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Many trials revolve around manipulating enemies into positions where your magic damage is maximised.

This leads to trials that veer wildly between brilliant and slightly dull. There's an element of rote learning to several of the trials, with extremely specific solutions that have to be worked out and executed. Some of these are brief and cute enough to blind you to their binary design, but others just become a source of frustration.

Most of these trials are nearer the beginning than the end, and 100 Trials gets better the more you play. In early trials the rogues' movesets are crimped, but soon enough you have the kind of options that allow the puzzles to breathe a little. When you're given the chance to use their abilities creatively, things become that much more interesting - whether to backstab or bludgeon, use stealth or barge in, when and where to use your limited mana points and what to do with them.

Not every puzzle is quite as either/or as this. There are some clever and funny setups, like a trial that puts you in a room flooding with rats - and asks you survive with a couple of hammer traps. Or chase-like sequences where a super enemy has to be escaped while taking out everything in your way.

100 Trials uses largely the same building bricks as 100 Rogues, and it looks like 100 Rogues. But it doesn't quite play that way. It's a mission pack that inverts the original, all about short-termism and restarts instead of a single long dungeon-crawl. These trials can be sadistic, and frustrating, in some cases outright nasty, and they're not random. But at least they're never dull.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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