January 9, 2014 4:40 PM | Lena LeRay
In Continue?9876543210, Game Over is the backstory.
Some games can really only be classified as digital experiences. Continue?9876543210 is such, being a high-concept game by Jason Oda. On the game's web site, it's written that it "was inspired by existential road trips into nowhere, Peruvian jungle drugs, and a brush with death while hopelessly lost in the mountains of New Mexico. It's one developer's attempt to translate his own quest for wonder, contemplation, and peace into the language of his craft." It sounds like Oda has had some unique experiences, and they've definitely contributed to a unique game.
In Continue?9876543210, you play as a player avatar who has just been killed in game and is now stuck in the computer's memory waiting to be deleted. Deletion is, in essence, a true death in this setting, and you flee the company of those peacefully waiting for their turns to be deleted in the hopes of finding a way out.
The gameplay is a bit difficult to explain in words. There are only so many levels in the game, and you'll never see them all in one playthrough. Once you leave the starting area, you go through two levels chosen at random before entering a town that is being buffeted by a lightning storm. During the regular levels, you have a limited amount of time in which to build up sheltering buildings against the lightning storm in the 3rd stage's town and/or try to unblock an exit so you can get out of the level without losing any of the buildings you've built up. Throughout a level, your efforts are occasionally interrupted by mini-stages. Doing well in those mini-stages by avoiding damage and defeating enemies can get you keys to unlock doors in the level that will (usually) help you out.
If that sounds a bit confusing, well, good. I think. The game takes some getting used to, but the need to get used to it is really one of its strong points. This is a game designed to make you think, and having to work out the mechanics and the meaning and how they tie together is really what makes the game work so well. When you add to that the graphics being as good and as bad as they need to be and a soundtrack which is a mixture of lovely music and sounds which can be appropriately jarring at times, the whole comes out to be something much more interesting than the sum of its parts.
Continue?9876543210 has been available on iOS since early December, but only hit the Humble Store and Steam about a week ago for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Its normal price on PCs is $9.99, but right now it's on sale on Steam for $7.99. You can pick it up on the iOS App Store for $3.99.