Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Everyone knows Connect Four, right? Four-in-a-Row is GNU Connect Four, basically. This is an old nemesis of mine. I've installed Ubuntu three times on my system, and every time I've wandered over to Four-in-a-Row eventually, and I have yet to win a game. I've played the PC to a draw once, but other than that, I lose. Every time. I've had friends play it, just to see if they can win, and none of them have, either. Not even my friend who works at the Pentagon.

Which either means that Four-in-a-Row at the easiest setting is harder to beat than terrorism, or that we're in a lot of trouble. I'm going with both, actually.

Other than its impossible level of difficulty (at the "Level One" setting on the computer player - it goes up to three), this game is perfect. Actually, I'm going to go ahead and say the level of difficulty is perfect as well. I'm playing Connect Four, which is almost checkers for dumb people, or tic-tac-toe for smart people at best, and I'm thinking about the moves I'm going to make in the future. I don't even do that when I play chess, as much as I do with Four-in-a-Row. Which is why I also always lose at chess, but I'm betting that if I ever beat this game playing against the computer, I will beat the computer at chess, because although in both, I try to anticipate the computer's moves, it feels manageable in Four-in-a-Row. So it's the perfect training ground for developing that Kasparovian mental discipline. It's like training wheels.

When I make a successful bid for world domination, I will have Four-in-a-Row to thank for making it all possible.

Graphically, they changed the default tileset from that hideous red and yellow that I had been playing with the last time I installed Ubuntu to some milky-looking marbles in red and blue, which is a very positive step. All of the themes it comes with are attractive, actually, although the "High Contrast" ones made my brain hurt to look at, and also belittled me (they're X's and O's in black and white - a reminder that I was losing at glorified tic-tac-toe).

The controls are a minimalist's wet dream; you just click on the column you want to drop a check/marble/whatever in. Absolutely nothing extraneous is going on here, but also absolutely nothing that is needed is left out. If you need to, you can play with the keyboard; the keyboard controls are equally intuitive.

This is yet another casual, click brainlessly or click with a brain, but just keep clicking sorta game, but it's absolutely perfect. They hit this one out of the park! I mean, it is just Connect Four n' all, so how hard can it be?, but as far as the default-installed games under Ubuntu, this is the best so-far where form meeting function are concerned. And it's a worthy foe, much like Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes, or ham to turkey at holiday dinners.


Jalan Rob said...

I have played this on and off for months and I just won my first game against the computer! I could not believe it - I was playing and I realised the tables were turned; I had the super aggressive computer on the defensive! After a few turns, boom - I pulled a two way trick on the computer. Glorious day!

Glad to know I was not the only one finding it riotously hard.

Vikram Gupta said...

I also tried this a lot of time but still not able to beat t even at level 1.... although I managed to make a draw few times, but couldn't win.
If any one got the logic please tell me.... :)