Review of CONTINUI


by Steve Blyth, "Archive" July 2000 issue

Continui is "a game of skill for two players" written by Roger W. Darlington, aka Atomic Software. Some readers may remember that I reviewed a game in Archive previously (SuperSnail - 1 3.2 p 74). Concluding that review, I stated that "I'm not a game player really", so why another game review? Quite simple really. On my hard disc, I have a directory called games which hasn't been opened for many months (other than to insert Supersnail). I also have a directory called diversions which is explored quite frequently. I keep Continui in the latter directory.

Games tend to be rather grander entities than diversions: multi-coloured scrolling graphics, sound effects, background music tracks, etc - altogether deserving of far more attention than I am inclined to offer. Diversions, on the other hand, are often much simpler in size and scope, and provide an essential service when I'm a bit bored or have half an hour to waste. Games can justify double page reviews in Acorn User (sorry Steve, but I usually skip these). Even in its heyday, I don't recall Tetris receiving such prestigious treatment. I hope Roger won't be offended by my calling Continui a diversion. It's really a compliment, as I hope this review will demonstrate.

P1aying Continui
I've read the notes that come with Continui (in both printed and textfile format) and don't believe that I can describe the method of play any better than the author himself. Therefore I quote:
" Each player takes turns at placing a coloured 4 by 4 tile abutting, but not overlapping, already played tiles. The tiles comprise up to four different colours."

"The purpose is to make continuous snakes of the same colour running through the tile that you have just played. The longer the snake, the more points scored, with each square of the snake contributing one point. Before playing, you may rotate the tiles to try and get a higher score."

"The game is over after all the tiles have been played. No tile may overlap another. Except for the first tile, the played tile must touch any other tile along at least part of an edge. The played tile cannot touch at a corner only. Neither can you play a tile away from the other tiles. The program adheres to these rules. Trying to play a tile wrongly will result in a beep, and the tile won't be played. It's still your go until you play the tile correctly."

"Tiles are moved about the board using the mouse, and tiles are placed in position by depressing the middle mouse button. Tiles are rotated clock-wise or anti-clockwise by depressing the outer mouse buttons, respectively."

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"There are 42 tiles altogether in the original tile set. After setting the computer playing against itself a dozen times, the highest score reached was 435. An alternative, new set of tiles with only 36 in the set is selectable. With the new set, branching of the snake is possible, which may result in much longer snakes, and consequently higher scores."

Cyber opponents
The two players in this game (yes I know I called it a diversion, but repeated use of the term may become a little conspicuous) can be human, computer or one of each. Mostly, I have played against my RiscPC. I enjoy pitting my wits against a computer knowing, of course, that they are essentially stupid machines, but have the advantage of being able to compare numerous alternative positions very quickly. More often than not, you are challenging the person who originally programmed the routine the computer follows. Interestingly, Continui allows you to choose between high or low IQ computer players! My experience so far has me always beating the low IQ computer but losing to the high IQ version in three out of four games.

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Most humans will get bored before they have checked the scores for each of the hundreds of possible moves that might be available, and so mistakes are inevitable. I have had a sneaky look at the Basic code of the program but wasn't quickly able to ascertain whether the high IQ computer checks every possible position. If this is the case, any human (unless he or she does the same) is bound to lose more games than their electronic opponent. It may be possible, on the other hand, that the highest scoring position isn't always selected, but rather a tactical decision is employed to reduce the opponent's next score.

Continui is essentially a simple game but I really like it (say nothing!). I would have preferred it if it could have been a little more challenging. I can imagine a few variations that might have added a bit of edge to it. What about varying shapes of tiles, 8 x 2, 2 x 8, or even non-rectangular tiles with 16 component squares. A high score table could easily be added, I guess. It is quite cheap, at £7.95 from Atomic Software, but bearing in mind the sort of games you can get free in the public domain, perhaps even this may be over-pricing it. You pays yer money and takes yer choice.

Steve Blyth,

Archive magazine, July 2000 (Vol13 No10).

by Steve Blyth, "Archive" July 2000 issue


Steve Blyth is correct in his speculation; when set to the high-IQ setting the cyber opponent does indeed play the highest scoring position, but this need not mean that any human contestant is, on average, bound to lose. The human player can apply other tactics: Blocking off any potentially high scoring runs would be one. Looking at the tiles played would be another. The cyber opponent employs neither of these gambits. May the force be with you. Let game commence.

Roger Darlington, Summer Solstice, 2000.

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