Reviewed: November 23, 2007
Released: October 17, 2007
Shortly after I fired up Every Extend Extra Extreme (E4) for the first time, my roommate came sauntering through the living room on his way to the kitchen. Upon seeing the game, he paused to watch. After pondering quietly for about thirty seconds, he finally asked, “Sooo…what’s going on?” I opened my mouth to explain but shut it almost immediately when I realized I had absolutely no idea. I think he gathered that I was as confused as him, because he followed up with, “Ah, who cares? It sure is fun to watch.”
That is the overarching theme of E4, which is the third installment in Q Entertainment’s Every Extend series. The original game (“Every Extend”) was a piece of freeware released in 2004. The sequel (“Every Extend Extra”) hit the PSP in 2006. The idea behind all three games is fairly similar. The player assumes control of a craft to destroy endless waves of oncoming foes by strategically detonating himself. The enemy ships explode when they are destroyed and are frequently so numerous and packed together that the resulting chain reaction consumes the entire playing field.
At first the gameplay is extremely confusing. The only button you can use does nothing but instantly blow up your own ship. The screen is crammed with mysterious objects of all shapes, sizes, and colors, and every corner has numbers and gauges that must surely be somehow relevant.
Fortunately, the game is simple enough that the confusion gives way to understanding after only about ten minutes. Once an hour has been dedicated to E4, the player is an expert.
The main game type (E4: The Game Time Unlimited) runs on a never-ending cycle. The player detonates their ship to start a chain of explosions, which will wipe out many (several thousand in some cases) enemy ships. The destroyed ships will often leave behind power-ups, which float aimlessly until they are collected or despawn. Once the last of the explosions has fizzled out, the player respawns with a shield of invincibility that grants the ability to dart around and pick up the power-ups. The shield only lasts for a few seconds and floating around without it is to welcome swift death. The only viable option is to detonate again before your shield fails.
There is no limit to the number of times you can die in a single game. However, death is a serious setback since it resets your score multiplier and all the momentum you have worked up will vanish. Depending on how far along you were when you perished, it could take more than two hours to get back up to speed.
Ultimately, the gameplay flaw that seriously cripples E4 is the sheer amount of time that the player spends doing absolutely nothing. The explosion chains can last as long as 90 seconds. During this time, the player might as well put down the controller and grab a slice of pizza since the game is perfectly capable of playing itself.
There is a variation of the main game type called E4: The Game Time Limited. This mode is identical to the first except that the time on the clock is set in stone and cannot be extended. Unlike Time Unlimited where a 3-minute game can last for several days, a 5-minute game here will last for 5 minutes.
The final game mode (R4: The Revenge) is a more traditional shooter. Your craft is equipped with guns rather than a self-destruct button. Unfortunately, The Revenge mode is thoroughly mediocre and feels as though it was added as an afterthought. Waves and waves of enemies swarm around the screen and killing them is as easy as holding down the trigger and spinning in the middle of the field. Every stage ends with a boss encounter. There are only five bosses, so you face the same boss every fifth level. It gets old pretty quick. On the bright side, there is some sense of progression in this mode since you have 100 stages to shoot your way through.
The visuals in E4 are bright, crisp, and clean. The whole presentation is a delight to look at. Once you have an understanding of the gameplay, you can set up some pretty sweet explosion chains. These will remind you of the grand finale in the fireworks show you watched over the summer. Despite all the chaos, the game runs as smooth as silk. However, the graphics engine is not rendering anything terribly complex, so the fact that everything looks good isn’t saying much.
The audio in E4 is nothing special. The same clips of computer voices and mini-explosions get played over and over. There are four separate techno dance-rave music tracks (one for each of the stages). These will probably get on your nerves pretty quickly.
Despite the uninspiring quality of the audio, it does play an interesting role in the gaming experience. The player can earn some pretty hefty score multipliers by detonating their ship at the same instant the bass hits in the music. Not only that, but all the enemy ships you destroy explode in-step with the beat, giving the feeling that this is a rave, not a battle.
E4 is not a deep game. I cannot imagine anyone playing much longer than about 6-7 hours. The only incentive to rack up a 16-digit score is to see your name on the XBL leaderboards, which can be accessed from in-game. However, even if you are driven by dreams of glory and seeing your name up there, the game will become a chore by the time you hit 12 digits.
During my final session with E4, I managed to hit 276 trillion points after 2.5 hours of techno and fireworks. The session didn’t end because I finally ran out of time. It ended because I just couldn’t stand the boredom any longer. I put the controller down and walked away. A few minutes later I heard the “Game Over” from the other room. The score gave me the #2 spot on the weekly leaderboards for stage 2. Whoopdee-doo.
There is a multiplayer feature, but I was unable to try it out. The matchmaking area seems completely deserted. You can select either “Join Game,” at which point you will be notified that there are no available games, or you can select “Host Game.” After you set a few of the game rules, you will sit at a screen that says “Waiting for Challenger.” You can sit here for as long as you like, but you will probably have to wait awhile before you actually play. I didn’t have the patience to find out how long that would take.
This is the sort of game you play in class on your laptop when there is nothing else to do but listen to the professor. I would not recommend filling your free time with it. The player is barely involved in the game at all, which effectively makes it little more than a snazzy light show.
The best direction Q Entertainment could take with this series would be to remove the player entirely from E5 and just make the program a screensaver. I would pay Microsoft points for that in a heartbeat.
I have to say, though, that it is refreshing to see a scoring system like the one featured in E4. Why do game designers insist on awarding a hundred points for a well-played move when they could just as easily award five-hundred billion? The highest score I saw on E4 was 5.5 quadrillion. Now THAT is how you give a sense of accomplishment.