Surely… surely there's going to be someone reading this review who has played 'Connect Four' before? Well, I'm counting on it, because it's one of the best ways to describe this great little puzzle game by Nop90, which was entered into the '30th Anniversary of Atari Lynx' gaming competition. But far from being a basic and straightforward representation of 'Tic Tac Toe' on the Lynx screen, '4ttude' presents a highly polished and adjustable experience that is as polished as any of the official Atari Lynx puzzle game releases. Not a bad achievement, given the Lynx puzzling canon!
First things first: there's only one goal to this game. On the gridded game boards, you need to mark out four squares in a row, and then you win. That's it. But notice I said "game boards" (plural). There are four of them! So as you play the CPU (or a human opponent) you are able to either place four squares in a row on one board, or four squares in a row across multiple boards. This latter option can seem a bit tricky to get your head around at first, but as long as the squares "align" (in terms of their positioning on each board) you will conquer your opponent totally: that is, until the next game!
'4ttude' could have been a visually simple game, but thankfully, it isn't. In fact, from the impressive title and menu screens to the in-game action, it is clear some time has been taken here to make the game look as special as possible. The glow of the squares on the title screen is terrific, as are the quality of the in-game grids; even though this is a simply represented game. It's always easy to see where you have marked a square, and where the opposing player has marked theirs. Even better, as well as being able to look at a nice background and your play area, you will also get other forms of visual representations of where you marked your squares; which eliminates any confusion as to where you played your move. It's a very nice touch that works really well here.
The game is enhanced with some nice sound effects (on the title menu) as well as a pleasant set of tunes that remind me a little of 'Chips Challenge'. Any challenge to combine this kind of game with appropriate music has been successfully navigated: there are no speedy dance tracks here! And that's a good thing, because you will need your concentration in order to overcome your opponent in a complex battle of "four in a row" action. I liked the digitized robot speech at the early launch screens, but I wanted more of them; I think the only way that this game could have been improved would be additional digitized sounds and music (a la 'Power Factor' at the "Game Over" screen). Still, what we have here is very nice.
It's the controls and the longevity that actually present the most interest here. As afore mentioned, this could have been a very simple, 'Pong' like title with very little in the way of trimmings. But '4ttude' presents the player with a treasure trove of intriguing options. The first is the fact that playing a new game involves the selection of a "save file". Then, once you have chosen your difficulty level and begun playing, each game is recorded; and results are graphed on a mini chart! For statisticians and those who really want to see where they went right or wrong, it's a fascinating addition. The chart will go up as you raise the difficulty level for yourself, so it's a nice way of creating a "mountain peak" kind of pattern in trying higher and higher challenges.
The game also gives you other options too. Why not view your playing results in the 'Statistics' section? Or how about going to the 'Settings' area to turn the music on or off, or change some visual facets? You can even view the credits if you like. And if you are still stumped as to how to play the game, you can read the handy and very detailed "Tutorial" for answers. With 10 levels of difficulty (0 being the weakest), you will have an enormous challenge before you in facing off against the computer at it's toughest. Level 0 and 1 presented little challenge for me, but then it goes up steeply. Take the advice of the game and start on something easy first!
Overall, it's true to say that '4ttude' presents a familiar game concept; but the way in which it does this shows some real dedication and consideration of gamers that isn't often seen. Those who enjoy viewing statistics and getting into the nitty-gritty of how they are playing will have a lot of fun playing this title. It's not hard to pick up, and there is a sense in which you can have your hand held onto if you want, or just put on your game-face and take it headfirst. It's going to take some serious dedication to conquer some of the harder difficulty levels in this game, but '4ttude' is designed to make your gaming experience simple, neat and considered; and not many games have the "fortitude" to give you a puzzling experience so cleanly defined.
Hey Nop90 - thumbs up!Score Card
This review was submitted by Jon Mc from JMac Productions