Written by  :  SirOrlando (250)
Written on  :  Oct 31, 2005
Platform  :  Atari 2600
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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3D Tic-Tac-Toe is the most challenging variation of the classic "paper and pencil" game that you are likely to ever play.

The Good

I remember playing this game at my grandparent’s house during vacations. We had our own 2600 Video Game System, but my grandparents had additional games we didn't, including 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe.

The flexibility of 3D Tic-Tac-Toe was one of the things I enjoyed most about it, because it allowed you to either play against a human opponent, or against the computer. Furthermore, you could increase the difficulty level of the computer, making for a much more challenging game.

Playing against a human player was the most enjoyable way to play the game for me, because most humans (especially those who had never played this game before) didn't see every single weird possible winning move, and it was actually possible to win against another human. Playing against the computer, even on the easy levels, I seldom stood a chance.

More than any other reason, I enjoyed this game because of its originality. The amount of thinking required to win this game was analogous to going from Checkers to Chess... or from Chess to 3D Chess. The 3-dimensional element of 3D Tic-Tac-Toe breathed a whole new life into the game. It was now possible to move beyond the endless series of stalemates that commonly occurred when I would play traditional tic-tac-toe.

The Bad

The amount of processing power this game requires can extend the amount of time it takes to play a round half-way towards infinity! It's not much of a problem when playing the beginner games, and certainly isn't overly noticeable... the CPU takes just a few seconds to make its move. Yet on the higher levels, the limited Atari 2600 CPU just can't make a choice very quickly. The process of analyzing all the possible moves, countermoves, and so forth slow the game down to a crawl.

Going back to my childhood, when I used to play this game somewhat frequently, I remember how long it took the CPU to think when you had the game set to the most advanced of the difficulty levels. Sometimes, if you made a move that REALLY made the Atari 2600 think, I recall that it could take ten minutes or more to finally decide upon a move! I have also heard from some other avid players (who played it far more than did I) that they have seen it sit on a blank screen for close to half an hour before making a move! That's plenty long enough to go eat Lunch while waiting for the game to make its move! And as a child, that amount of waiting is excruciating.

Last of all, the frustration level of playing this game can often be a huge discouragement. After failing to win the first dozen or so games, 3D Tic-Tac-Toe seems to loose it’s enjoyment factor completely. Of course, if you have strategic tenacity, you may never tire of this game. I did, however, so I only play it for rare, nostalgic purposes these days.

The Bottom Line

3D-Tic-Tac-Toe is an extremely challenging game, and one of the best strategy games I have ever played on the Atari 2600 platform. Rather than stick with a traditional game of tic-tac-toe that would quickly become tedious for most, the designer of this game decided to take the classic game to a whole new level!

The game board is actually separated into four separate boards, and each are 4x4 instead of 3x3, giving ten possible winning directions on each playing board, instead of just eight. The four boards are positioned one above another, in a sort of free-floating stack.

Because there are four boards on the screen, it increases the winning combinations to forty, if the winning move is focused on just one of the boards. Yet once you have played the game, you will suddenly realize that a winning move can also be made< i>through the four playing boards, thus adding the three-dimensional aspect of the game! When you see how this is done, you will suddenly understand that the true challenge of this game is introduced when you add the strategy of three dimensions. And thus the total number of winning moves leaps above one hundred.

The challenge of this game is quickly discovered because it is not easy to think three-dimensionally when playing tic-tac-toe. It's like going from a slide-tile game to a Rubik's Cube. With a possible move being possible in so many directions, a single mistake can (and often will be) fatal. Plus, with so many directions for the computer to win, it is hard keeping an effective defense in place.

3D Tic-Tac-Toe is a fascinating game for the Atari 2600, and it is definitely worth trying. You may quickly become frustrated, but then again, it's all part of the game!