We’ve all experienced it. Right in the middle of an excruciatingly difficult boss fight, the one moment you let down your guard, your character dies and the game over screen appears. Thankfully, all that usually has to be done is press continue to start up again. But what if those discarded characters were more than bytes of data? How would they deal with things after being suddenly thrust out of the game and marked for deletion? Continue?9876543210 starts its story right at the moment of player-inflicted death.
Beginning as a dead game character, you know about as much of the new world around you as they do. The townsfolk are willing to talk but do so in odd ways. They seem to mumble semi-coherent sentences and sometimes offer assistance. Every so often, lightning strikes and destroys blocks of the world. Almost all meaning is eschewed. There’s only one thing for certain – you are going to die.
With the character having no use in the game, they’re marked for deletion. After leaving the gameplay session, they are simply thrust into the Random Access Memory. Characters and stages have been thrown in as garbage and these are what you must explore. Your character’s determination to live pushes them to find any means of survival. They do so by running when garbage collection begins. By hiding, they hope to escape, but there’s no escape from an eventual fate.
As far as gameplay is concerned, it is hard to immediately figure out. Although there is a multi-page guide of information presented early on, Continue still requires attentive playing to get a feel for it. After a while, you begin to work out concepts. Talking to characters may yield lightning or prayer. Lightning is necessary to destroy blocked exits to each area. Without doing so, your character will have nowhere to run. Prayer adds buildings back to a lonely town. This is important because the player must also return to the town a few times during a playthrough and hope to dodge deletion by hiding in the buildings.
Stages themselves are quite short and divided up into chunks. For example, a war-themed level may have four sixty second periods. This means that you have four minutes to accomplish whatever goals you need before exiting the area. Once each period ends, you’re thrust into one of multiple minigames. Performing well in these will reward players in some fashion. Often, you’ll gain extra currency to bring back to the section. Money is the means of summoning lightning or buildings so it is a necessity.
It’s a fairly simplistic system to learn and once you have it down the experience becomes less difficult. But this isn’t the type of game you play for highly engaging gameplay. After all, who exactly would expect addictive and/or silly mechanics when faced with a storyline that expresses coming to terms with death? Instead, players are meant to feel what it’s like to strive against the impossible for as long as they can. No matter what you do, the end always comes and that seems to be one of the points Continue makes.
One (quickly terminated) playthrough might take thirty minutes. But learning all the systems and using them effectively adds at least a few more hours to a playtime. There was an attempt to make things worth multiple plays as well, such as six characters and eleven stages. No full playthrough explores all stages which leaves room for at least one other full run – or multiple shorter ones. However, with the overarching theme of death in mind, this isn’t the kind of experience you want to revisit time and time again.
Visually, there’s a lot to like. From the very beginning players are treated to strobing bright visuals, lonely scenes, and an interesting retro-modern design aesthetic. Characters practically have the bodies of IntelliVision characters filled out in 3 dimensions. Audio fits in perfectly with the theme as moody tracks pervade each area. It’s safe to say that without the well thought out video/audio composition that the story’s themes wouldn’t work as well.
Whether you’ll like this title or not is entirely dependent on your willingness to accept games that attempt to “say” something. Even agreeing or disagreeing that the point was sufficiently met isn’t as important as the mindset one comes in with. If you jump into Continue expecting The Legend of Zelda or Minecraft, it might completely annoy you. But if you don’t mind playing a very different sort of game, then this is one worth looking into. Continue?9876543210 is strangely compelling, and I want to experience more games like it.