Reviewed on: PC

Jason Oda’s Continue?9876543210 is a very unique game. It is not a game about winning, losing, or even beating the bad guy. It’s a game about death. It’s not a game about avoiding death or trying to stay alive. It’s about accepting the inevitable and making peace with your death. It is an abstract existential experience that gets you thinking about subjects that the average person would normally prefer to avoid. It is gritty and dark, but if you can make it through it, it is a powerful experience that will leave you speechless.

Publisher: Jason Oda
Developer: Jason Oda
Platforms: PC, iOS, Linux, Mac
Genre: Experimental Action Adventure
Release Date: January 3, 2014

My Lightening, My Prayer

You are going to die. Not just in the game, but in life. One day, your life is going to end and you need to accept that. The sooner you come to terms with that reality, the sooner you will be at peace.

Is there a God? What is he/she/it like? Does an omnipotent being really care about you, or is it indifferent to your existence? Perhaps when you die you simply drift into an empty void for all eternity? If you died today, would your mind be at ease, or is your life filled with wants and regrets? These are things that Continue? makes you think about. It’s depressing, but it does make you do some serious personal introspection that will make you question everything you thought you knew about your existence.

Lightening or Prayer

The game draws its inspiration from road trips, life experiences, and brushes with death that the developer, Jason Oda, has experienced in his lifetime. He even went as far as to insert his living will as an Easter Egg in one of the levels in the game.

The official story to Continue? is that you are a failed video game character who has died. Their life is over and everything they knew is being erased by the automated Garbage Collector process. Your sprite is wondering around a digital limbo of unallocated RAM trying to find piece with their final moments before being deleted forever.

Continue GC

This trip takes the player through six of the 11 randomized levels that are the remains of other programs that are also sitting in the wastes of RAM waiting to be deleted. It takes a few attempts at playing the game before getting the hang of all of the mechanics and before you can even begin to comprehend what is going on; the level randomization ensures that players get a different experience their first few play-through. There is no solid narrative to Continue?. Instead players are dropped into a random level and are told that they will be confused and that they will figure it out eventually. There is a guide that you can look over, however, don’t expect much help from it because it only tells you the absolute bare minimum about what you need to do. It is only by trial and error that you will begin to make sense of the game.

Each level is broken down into timed segments during which the player explores the area to collect prayers and lightening. Each area is sealed and cannot be escaped. In order to escape, a player must collect lightening that is used to clear a path out of the level. After completing every two levels, players are taken to a town that is on the verge of being deleted by the Garbage Collector. In order to survive players must have collected enough prayers, which turned into protective shelters, to last the night.

Continue Void

To collect lightening and prayers, players will need to interact with other character sprites in the area they are in. Sprites have a series of actions they perform. Some will open doors to rooms -if you pay them- that you use to get prayers and lightening, some will give you clues about a shrine or another sprite, others will just babble to waste your time. Their speech is a disjointed pairing of words that doesn’t always make sense, but it adds to the atmosphere of the game so it’s not an issue.

In a game all about coming to terms with death, you might be curious about what happens when your character “dies” or fails at escaping an area. Does it go back to a checkpoint? Does it respawn right before the action that caused them to die? The answer is no. There are no respawns, checkpoints, or saves spots in Continue?9876543210.

Continue? adds real meaning and consequences to a player taking too much damage or not escaping in time. Adding in respawns and save spots would detract from the overall meaning of the game. Instead, when a player is faced with failure they must find a way to re-allocate the RAM that was being used to sustain their existence. If a player takes too much damage they have a choice between paying a rather substantial amount of money, giving up a car part, or by having the Garbage Collector delete shelters from the town. Failing to collect enough lightening and escaping before the timer runs out in an area results in the Garbage Collector deleting shelters, up to seven, from the town. Not having enough shelters in the town means permanent deletion and will result in the end of that game.

Continue Celiea

In between levels, the character will go through a series of prayers and personal reflections. This is where Continue? shines. How the game presents the dilemma and personal struggle this character sprite is facing is nothing short of extraordinary. Everything comes together in these moments, the minimalist art style, the disjointed and poetic speech, the music, and the atmosphere all work together to convey the true messages of this game. These sequences are where the game raises its biggest questions and really engages players in deep philosophical thought. No other game succeeds at engaging players on such a deep level like Continue? does.

Gameplay is Continue?‘s biggest weak point. In a game that succeeds so well at engaging its audience emotionally, the gameplay leaves something to be desired.

The controls will immediately stand out as a major flaw to players. They are bad. They don’t make the game unplayable or anything, it’s just with a game that is centered on completing certain objectives in a very short amount of time, and it would be nice to have a set of intuitive controls. Now, there is some argument here that the controls contribute to the general atmosphere of the game; however, as players will quickly find out, the controls cause more moments of rage which serves to break any involvement in the atmosphere the player might have.

Continue Know Peace

Everything in Continue? is randomized. While this works for level spacing and keeping some fresh elements in the game, it is not always the case when players are in a short time window to get lightening and can only find sprites that want to babble on about nothing. Again, this is not necessarily a huge flaw, because it does create a sense of urgency, it just gets annoying because some of the levels are fairly large given the short time windows and you do not know what you are going to get when you talk to a sprite. Also, the rooms the sprites open are not always nearby and having to run all over the map to get to rooms adds to the frustration when you cannot get to them all in time and have to suffer a consequence from not clearing an exit. Another thing that is randomized is where the lightening will strike when you are trying to clear out an exit. There are very few things as frustrating as running across the levels, talking to sprites, avoiding enemies, and solving the games puzzles only to have lightning strike in the exact same spots multiple times in a row, thereby not clearing the exit(s) and causing you to not successfully escape from the level. This only serves to take away from time that could be spent experiencing other parts of the game’s story.

Continue Prayer

While exploring the levels, players will encounter enemies. These enemies can be avoided, or killed; however, if they touch you it triggers a full combat scenario that can waste a good chunk of time that the player could otherwise spend collecting lightening and prayers. If a player successfully wins the combat, they are awarded with additional money that they will need to progress through the game. This would normally be a great thing to include in the game as it forces players choose between fighting or exploring, however, the enemy spawn points are random and can often appear directly in front of you without warning.

While the levels and sprites are randomly selected, the actual game does not change. Once you figure out what treasure to leave in which alter, or what action to take with a sprite, that’s it. Every other time you play through the game, those will be the answers. This is both good and bad because once you get a few runs in, it makes experiencing the games narrative a bit easier, even if it does kind of kill some of the long-term replayability of the game.

Continue Thinking

Continue?9876543210 is a very unique game. It’s a game unlike anything else currently available and it will make you think about things that you will probably wish it did not. It succeeds at many things other games have tried to do before it, but haven’t always had the best luck. The atmosphere and musical scores will draw you in when they are all working together. The game’s narratives will have players pondering the meaning of life for weeks to come.

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Continue?9876543210 Review
Continue? 9876543210 is easily one of the most thought provoking games on the market. Its existential themes are apparent from the very beginning and will make the player reflect on their own life. However, the gameplay is not that great, plagued by horrible controls, and gets extremely repetitive. This game is not meant to be played, it is meant to be experienced. Its dark atmosphere and enthralling themes make this game what it is. There is nothing else quite like it on the market. If you are looking for an incredibly deep philosophical experience, this is the perfect game for you.
Pros
  • Thought Provoking Design
  • Dark Atmosphere
  • Music
Cons
  • Controls
  • Randomization
  • Repetitive
3.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author

Editor-and-Chief

Blane Humphries began his gaming adventures in the mid 90's. While he had played several different games growing up, he credits Westwood's Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun for shaping him into the gamer he is today. Blane has a degree in Public Relations from Georgia Southern University and enjoys creating media campaigns for game studios and games industry media.