Now more than ever, a question has become elevated from dismissive to debatable: can a video game be art? This paradigm shift has encouraged new games that define themselves on the cover as art, and created new challenges and controversies for developers.

Continue?9876543210 is an art game. The game is a serious meditation on the various aspects that make up life and thought, tied through with the threat and acceptance of death. Not a game you play at a party, if you catch my drift.

In the game, you play the discarded spirit of a dead video game character, wandering through the fragmented, ethereal realm of Random Access Memory. The player is hunted by GC.exe, an application designed to recycle old data in order to free up space for the game. The idea is an ingenious metaphor for death and the subconscious, and I knew I had to try it.

The storyline of the game itself is loose and partially randomly generated, with different moments appearing from different worlds, each with different themes and concepts of our world and lives. Yet each of these small cut-scenes and scraps of dialogue contribute powerfully to the feel and themes of the game, and leave the player emotionally hooked to experience and learn from the next world. As a work of art, the game has serious potential.

As a game, however, it’s seriously flawed. First off, the game is hard. Late game, it’s so difficult it nears becoming mostly dependent on luck. Bad controls make the problem even worse; I had a golden run completely screwed up because the player character handles stairs like a greased monkey in socks on linoleum and went flying off to the bottom of the stage, ruining my chances of making it to the exit on time. Combat is made difficult by inaccurate attacks and limited angles.

Outside of the action, the mechanics are to talk to people who randomly spawn and quickly de-spawn throughout a level. But let’s say you found, approached and talked to one; they’d either offer you information, an opportunity to obtain a new item, or just some random dialogue. But let’s say they gave you an opportunity which led to a new item. The item could help you escape and progress, or it could do nothing. All of this is done under a very low time limit. High difficulty with bad controls with randomization—all under a time limit.

What that makes is a frustration only deepened by the desire to learn more about the story you can’t progress through. The contemplative nature of the game is overwhelmed by the frenetic difficulty, and we’re left with more conflict between the “art” and “game” of the art game. While not unplayable, Continue is frustrating. If you feel you can—or at least desire to—look past that to unlock its emotional and philosophical exploration, then get the game, learn and discover. If that reward doesn’t sound worth the issues, then its negatives essentially counterbalance its positives.



for PC, Mac, Linux and iOS

Available on Steam, in the Humble Store, or in the iOS App Store.

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