You’ll often hear critics talk about mediocre games and use the word “potential” as if the game just didn’t quite have all the pieces of something great. “There’s something, but it needed a little more to hit the transformation.” For a while, I considered this as a great descriptor of Pixel Pinecone’s CONTINUE, but I came to find out that the game actually suffers from the exact opposite problem.
In more ways than one (or even two or three for that matter), a rich experience thrives from within the game’s core and makes for a challenging and enjoyable adventure, but, in the same way that you need more than just a couple of three-point shots to win in basketball, a video game can’t look and feel sharp in just a few areas to justify inattention in others. However, briefly sticking with the sports metaphor, we know that sometimes a losing team has all the right players but not the proper management of them. If the team isn’t conducted in a fitting manner to best utilize its recourses, then the quality of its players has little bearing on the team’s success. Similarly, CONTINUE has tons of great components that are mismanaged, making for an unbalanced playthrough.
In this game, every Batman has its Joker, and we can find this most clearly in the design of the enemies. One of the game’s strongest points is the large variety of enemies that all behave differently and come with their own challenges. At the same time, arguably the game’s steepest drop comes when you realize that the enemies come in large groups that require an unjustifiable amount of luck. Most fights with waves of enemies come down to whether or not you happen to be standing in a specific spot where enemies aren’t attacking. After a couple hours of playing, you find that you’re really not getting any better at the game. Often, the only determining factors to your survival are the algorithms used to develop the AI. Again, this is a shame considering how unique each enemy is. The developer got so caught up in making the game challenging that it’s difficult to appreciate the work that they put into it.
CONTINUE suffers from this problem across the board. As another example, you receive a diverse skillset throughout the game that you can experiment with over and over again until you find the right ways to defeat certain enemies. However, very few of your abilities help you in ranged combat. In other words, the game requires you to almost exclusively engage in close-range combat. I would see very little wrong with this if the game didn’t punish you for doing just that. If you stay in one spot too long, you’ll get shot by one of the ranged enemies. If you try to charge an attack, then you’ll get speared or slashed by one of the medium-range melee enemies. The game tries to counteract this with a crucial ability that allows you to dash around the map. The idea is that you’re able to dash away from enemies to avoid attacks and then quickly dash back in to land a couple of hits on them. At the end of the day, the game only rewards two things: speed and patience. This is where the luck comes in. Like I’ve said, most of the game is hoping and praying that the place you have to dash to doesn’t have an enemy attacking it. While this is an interesting concept, it’s not fun, and it’s nearly impossible when the dashing ability responds inconsistently to key presses.
The importance of combat in a hack and slash game cannot be overstated, so much of CONTINUE‘s impressive elements go overshadowed by errors in the developer’s decision making. From visual and audio standpoints, the developers took the sky as the limit. The simplistic design of the world does nothing to detract from its beauty. Everything a computer does is within the context of ones and zeros, and the developers maintain that atmosphere with simple yet precise glowing lines that show you where to go, the feeling of being on a computer chip, and the empty space around the platforms you stand on. Even the idea of being able to look off the edge of your current platform to see other ones that you can go to or have already been on seems to nicely establish the atmosphere by highlighting the space in between everything. It all perfectly showcases the feeling of vast freedom from technology while staying true to the actual design and process of a computer or program. Even nicer are the models and animations that meld quite nicely with the aforementioned world surrounding them. The sort of glow that comes with attacks, the enemies, the player, and the weapons yield a beautiful and intense contrast with the dull, dark colors of the platforms and the space surrounding everything.
The audio serves as a compliment to all of these. CONTINUE features an intense, and at times peaceful, electronic soundtrack that cuts no corners and sensationalizes fights and boss battles. Though at times it can feel repetitive or generic, you always come back loving it. Sound effects are even more well done, to the point where it’s hard to describe the sounds as anything other than appropriate. Everything just fits. When you hear a sound, your first thought is, “well, of course, that’s what it would sound like,” but then you remember that everyday life doesn’t consist of hovering through a computer destroying evil programs and the big boss programs that command them. The developers make you believe wholeheartedly that each sound belongs through their deliberate choice of sound effects that coincide with where you are, who you are, and what you do in the game.
Unfortunately, these sensory successes can only go so far in saving the day. Outside of the combat, there are even still some bugs and imperfections such as events not being triggered properly and being able to escape the boundaries of a battle on multiple occasions. Visuals and audio aside, everything just seems to have a lack of polish, polish that should’ve been applied considering the small scale of the game. Whenever a studio comes out with a Red Dead Redemption 2 or a new game in The Witcher series, it’s more forgivable when certain bugs and imperfections are found. Certain bugs can only be found usually when thousands of people get their hands on it at the same time and sort of “test” the integrity of the game. However, most indie games should have more time put towards debugging. The smaller a game is, the larger the impact of a bug on your enjoyment.
Perhaps you could look past more of these issues if the game had a central story to it, but the lack thereof combined with buggy, inconsistent combat leads you to wonder why you should even be playing the game. This is never a good thought. This is an issue that every developer should address before even pitching the idea of their game to a publisher, let alone making the game itself. “Why should people be playing my game?” should be one of the first answered questions in the development process. It establishes a purpose and a sense of direction for both the studio and the player. The question seems to have gone ignored here.
Referring back to the beginning of this article, the game is disappointing because all of the pieces are here. The score would have been vastly improved had the developers done two things: focused on a balanced experience rather than a challenging one and tested and debugged the game properly. Without these, this game that plenty of time and money was spent on leaves a defeating taste in your mouth that no amount of aesthetic can rectify.
This review of CONTINUE is based on the PC version of the game.
Though a nice attempt at a hack and slash, little can save such a game from unbalanced and sloppy combat.
Brandon is a young writer who loves going deep into games to explore meaning, purpose, and life. He believes that there’s nothing better than getting lost in a world full of characters to love and lessons to learn. He has a special place in his heart for single player games such as Mass Effect and Life Is Strange, but he also blows off some steam playing some of his favorite multiplayer games, like Paladins.