Developer: Jason Oda | Publisher: Jason Oda | Price: $9.99 | Platforms: iOS, PC | ESRB: Rating Pending
“Game Over.” Words that once meant emptying your pockets and giving up all your quarters at the arcades. Failure and death in video games by today’s standards generally means little in terms of consequence, but for Continue?9876543210 death is the very essence of the game.
A video game character is struck down and dying, as is often the case, but this avatar is not ready to die. The character is transferred to the Random Access Memory, a plane where all data goes to be inevitably deleted by the Garbage Collector. While all the other avatars have accepted their fate, your character still has a will to fight, so she (or he) ventures into the unknown, searching for something—anything—to understand the meaning of life.
Just like life, randomness is at the game’s core: your avatar’s name and gender are randomized, the order the levels regenerate varies, and what most NPCs say is perplexing babble; but that unpredictability and confusion alludes to the game’s existential purpose: Life is a collection of random events, and such events can bring about new levels of understanding—like what encouraged Jason Oda, the game’s developer, to craft this journey in the first place. Thanks to some Peruvian jungle drugs, Oda had a near-death experience, lost in the mountains of New Mexico that promptly inspired him to create Continue?.
Visually the game showcases 8-bit graphics reminiscent of Superbrother’s Sword and Sworcery: simple in appearance yet detailed in design, befitting of the digital code world the characters inhabit. The graphics are coupled with a soothing, almost majestic soundtrack that creates an environment engrossing enough to keep your attention but minimal as to not distract from the words being said by the NPCs you encounter. And that’s a good portion of the gameplay: talk with random avatars to find clues, receive items of importance, or hear facts (and gibberish, mostly) about their surroundings.
There are a total of eleven levels, but you experience six in one playthrough—if you make it that far. Your avatar wanders through levels in search of two important powers: lightning, a force that helps clear the level’s exits that are blocked by debris, or prayer that builds shelter to hide from the Garbage Collector.
As you make your way around these levels and kooky NPCs, eventually you engage in battles that can earn you lightning, prayer, and money to buy more “continues” should you die (again). These battles are also random in nature: there’s a Space Invaders-like level, small dungeons that bare a Legend of Zelda flare, or you’re tasked to kill enemies in a given time. Fighting is straightforward yet challenging; so much so that sometimes only being able to swing your sword left and right feels limiting.
Also constricting are the aforementioned graphics, at least when it comes to distinguishing where the exits are—but that of course could be part of the challenge. But then Continue? manages to overcome some of those issues with strong moments; the sight of a corpse that presumably drank itself to death, with beer bottles littered everywhere, is still powerful in 8-bit fashion, especially when presented after completing a level titled “war.”
The rest of the levels all carry themes, ones of childhood and love while there’s one that takes place in a prison, which has characters state how marriage is a prison, and other similar hyperboles. It’s these little conversations that define what you take away from Continue?. Your avatar is struggling to accept their fate; what they hear and experience is what defines how they feel about their mortality.
Thus, there’s no objective besides surviving as long as possible to encounter as much as is available. It doesn’t matter should you die in battle, be found by the Garbage Collector, or complete all six levels—you define if it’s a valuable experience. Yet understanding that’s the objective can take awhile; even after reading the optional instructions it can take a few playthroughs to grasp the game’s mechanics, but fortunately one playthrough can be as much as thirty minutes.
Ultimately, it seems a bit unfair to give Continue? a score—it’s a game that can mean everything or nothing depending greatly on your worldly interpretation. Where games like Gone Home and Papers Please have a clear fundamental message tugging on your principles, Continue? is either answering life’s questions or presenting some you weren’t considering before—apparently while “late at night with a glass of wine or some weed.”
+ Lovely ambience
— Challenging but sometimes limiting fighting mechanics
— Dialogue spoken is sometimes too random, at risk of taking away from game’s existential theme
7 / 10