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antstream
Written by  :  Daniel Saner (3253)
Written on  :  Jan 28, 2021
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars

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Summary

A successful implementation

The Good

There aren't many exciting things you can do with a straight-forward implementation of three-dimensional Noughts and Crosses, but there is a whole lot you could do wrong. This version commits no devastating mistakes, which is somewhat surprising considering it's written in BASIC, and was done very early in the IBM PC's life.

The oblique perspective of the playing field looks nice and lets you pretty easily evaluate the game state. Enemy moves are animated for a couple of seconds, which helps you analyze what has specifically changed about your situation. Moves have to be typed in as coordinates, there is no arrow key selection of fields or anything like that, but together with the on-screen axis legends you'll quickly get the hang of it.

Two difficulty levels are available for the computer opponent, which calls itself "Wizy" in the introduction screen, but "Compy" during gameplay. It doesn't seem to make mistakes on the harder level, and is still a pretty decent player on the lower one. You'll have to keep a good eye on its moves, especially for those tricky to detect multi-level diagonal lines. The computer will not overlook a possible winning move, and be eager to block you from making one, as well. The analysis of the game board seems pretty thorough considering how little code there is to the algorithm (the game was most often distributed in source form, so it's easy to check it out).

I usually get bored of simple rule-based games like this almost the minute I start playing them, but three-dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe seems to be a little less trivial than its flat sibling, and I was surprised how often I actually felt like playing another round. That definitely doesn't happen to me for games like regular Tic-Tac-Toe, Connect Four, or Reversi, which I draw more frustration from than enjoyment.

The Bad

The game doesn't offer a two-player mode, you can only play alone against the computer. With all the implementation for graphics, player input, and checking for winning conditions already in place, that seems like a strange omission. It also has a bug that makes it not count some rounds in the scoring, making the summary after each game worthless.

Most vicious, though, is the title theme playing through the PC speaker when starting the game. Not only is it as loud and harsh as the worst among PC speaker music, it's also just a few notes short and repeated around half a dozen times. Why? Just because a machine has a feature doesn't mean it absolutely has to be used.

The Bottom Line

It's a competent early implementation of a simple, traditional game concept, and the computer opponent's challenge makes it fun to play, even in 2021, even for several rounds. If you feel like playing a single-player round of good old three-dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe, the only major argument against booting up this version is the opening theme. Thank goodness that you can turn off sound in an emulator, because on original hardware, it must have been worth considering to open the case and disconnect the beeper each time before launching the game.

antstream