Off topic, but my Xbox Live name is Chronogamer. If you play 1 vs 100 Live on the Xbox 360, then you'll know what I'm talking about. Last night, I (with the help of my lovely and brilliant wife) came in third out of a crowd of 42,000 in a Live game and won myself a copy of RezHD! Yay! By the way, if you're an Xbox Live person, please invite me to be your friend!
3D-Tic-Tac-Toe (Atari VCS, 1980)
I need to clear up any impressions I may have given about my feelings towards playing 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe. I wasn't dreading it because I thought it would suck, I was dreading it because it was going to require a bit more brain power than my energy levels are prepared to muster on the weekends.
3D-Tic-Tac-Toe is a 4X4X4 take on the traditional 3X3 version of the game. Not that I think any of you don't already know this, but it is played by you (X) and an opponent (O) taking turns placing your markers on locations in a 4X4X4 grid. The first to place four of their symbols in a row wins. In traditional Tic-Tac-Toe, there are eight ways of lining up your markers three in a row, and it's very easy to learn how to force a tie once you've played only a few games. After all, there are only nine positions to occupy. In a 4x4x4 cube however, there are now 64 slots to occupy and 76 ways of lining up your markers. You have to have the ability to plan ahead and visualize well to win against the program.
3D-Tic-Tac-Toe has 9 games on it. Game 9 is for you and another human to play. Games 1 through 8 are progressively harder single player versions where it's you against the program. Game 1 is the easiest, where the program only looks one move ahead and only takes a few seconds to make a move. This one isn't hard to beat, and only took me a few tries. For Game 2 the program looks two moves ahead and takes three seconds or less to make its move. This is noticeably more difficult than Game 1, but after playing for about 30 minutes I was able to improve enough to beat the program about three out of five times, more if I chose to go first.
Game 3, the program looks three moves ahead, and can take up to a minute to prepare its move. This is where I got my butt kicked repeatedly. Yes, I got better, in the sense, that after playing for about an hour, I got better at seeing the early phases of what the program was doing, and prolonging the inevitable loss, but lose I usually did. Over and over.
Game 4, 5 and 6 each look the appropriate number of moves ahead. Game 4 can take as much as three minutes to plan it's next placement. Games 5 and 6 up to 10 minutes or less. Game 7 looks ahead nine moves, and takes 10 minutes or less to do so. Game 8 will also look ahead nine moves, but take up to 20 minutes to make a decision.
3D-Tic-Tac-Toe is the type of game that, were I a sufficiently advanced player, I'd prefer to play on an emulator, because I could get through the "AI thinking" times that much faster. However, given my current level of play, Game 3 was as high as I was able to get. I'm just not a good enough thinker/planner to do well at this, which is exactly what I had anticipated, and what I was dreading. I can't really comment on how good the AI was, all I know was that it is much, much better at this game than I am.
So, this game uses the joystick. When it's your turn you move the cursor through the levels to wherever you want to place your piece, and hit the button. This is not a hard interface to learn to use. On the other hand, it does take a little practice to visualize what is going on on the board. You're playing a 3D game on a 2D screen, and while the program does manage to display everything clearly; it is up to you to get used to reading it. I played 2.5 hours and I'm still not used to reading it.
Like Chess or Stellar Track, my Inner Geek rejoices to see 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe on the system (Yes, I remember not liking the VCS version of Chess, but I'm still impressed that it exists on the Atari VCS). 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe oozes the mystique of "You'd better be ready to think, or you're getting your butt kicked." If I'd been playing it back in the day, when it wasn't so easy to find something else to play, I could easily see getting addicted to it, and actually improving my game over time...though honestly, that didn't happen with Chess so who knows?
Playing 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe for two-and-a-half hours last Saturday afternoon doesn't do it justice, but it was certainly exercise for my flabby little brain. Given how time quickly flew, I'd say I had fun playing it. However, it wasn't the type of fun that I wandered around after going "wow, that was fun!" it was more like: "Whew, the life has been drained from me, was I really playing that long? Did the sun set already? Why am I so hungry? Who are these short people calling me 'Daddy'?"
I recommend giving 3D-Tic-Tac-Toe a try, but be warned, the "brights" ("waaay above average" and above) among you might do alright, but the "tweens" (which is "above average" but below "waaay above average") may pull a brain muscle like I did.
Though I can't find my little "what to play next" grid, I know I haven't yet played Dodge 'Em, so that's getting chronogamed next.