Reviewed: November 27, 2006
Released: November 2, 2006
If you own a PSP and enjoy puzzle games then you have much to celebrate this holiday season, other than the traditional stuff. You canít throw a Rubikís cube without knocking a PSP puzzle game off the shelf, in stores and in my office.
Every Extend Extra is just one of several of these games, but unlike most, this one comes from veteran designer, Q Entertainment (Lumines, Lumines II), and depending on your preference of puzzle games, this could quickly become your favorite of the bunch.
Iím not even sure how to describe Every Extend Extra, at least within the context of comparing it to games you might already know. It is truly that original. Part puzzle, part shooter, and complete with insane levels and yes, even boss fights, this game truly takes the puzzle genre into unexplored territory that innovates at almost every level.
Most games of this type are easy enough to pick up and play and figure out. Not this one. Please take my advice and that of the manual (which I didnít have the first time I tried to play) and take advantage of the included tutorial located in the options menu. It will save you from hours of frustration trying to figure out what is going on.
The game is deceptively simple, at least in theory. The entire process includes you moving your ship around the screen, avoiding enemies, and detonating (self-destruct) at just the right time to take out as many enemies as you can while creating huge chain reactions.
Controls are as simple as the rules. You move your ship with the D-pad or the A-pad and push any of the face buttons to blow up. The longer you hold the button the more charge you can build up for the resulting explosion. The only other tweak to the gameplay is your ability to detach the core from your ship using the R or L trigger while charging your blast, effectively changing the epicenter of the explosion.
The entire game is on a timer and your ultimate goal is to finish before the clock hits zero. Each time you crash your ship into an enemy you lose five seconds off the clock. You have an ample but finite amount of ships, so it is possibly to eventually run out of ďcontinuesĒ, but chances are the clock will run out before your ships do.
Aside from finishing the levels within the allotted time youíll want to be racking up huge scores. To do this you need to detonate your ship close to other ships, creating chain reactions that can often travel the width and height of the entire playing field if you do it right.
Chain reactions donít just count toward points, but they are often limits by which you can actually hit larger enemies and final stage bosses. For instance, if a boss appears on screen that requires a 20 chain hit you must first spark a chain reaction that includes at least 20 explosions before you can damage that boss. If you think it sounds easy youíre right, but actually doing it and doing it within the time limit takes practice and patience.
I took me three days of casual (90-minutes per day) gaming before I managed to defeat the first level boss. The level of difficulty only ramps up from there, so even though Every Extend Extra only offers 9 stages, it could take you months to defeat them all. At the time of this review I am now only at stage four.
Amidst all the explosive action youíll also want to be scavenging the battlefield for pick-ups including bonus points that stack in value when collected in succession as well as pulse bombs and Quickens. Quickens are very important allowing you to increase the speed of the game, the frequency of enemies, and the power of your explosions. There are eight levels of Quickens, but once you reach level six the enemies that spawn them stop appearing, so getting those extra two levels takes a bit of strategy.
Much like Lumines, each stage in Every Extend Extra has its own unique theme including background art, music, and creative enemies, sub-bosses, and final stage boss. Each level gets better and more original than the last so progressing through the relatively short game is reward in and of itself.
Perhaps the toughest enemy in the game Ė even harder than the boss fights, is the relentless timer that continually clicks down toward your ultimate failure. Youíll really have to work within the subtle confines of the gameís rules to manage the clock and actually stay alive long enough to win the game. Once you learn to resist the urge to dart around the levels trying to ďbeatĒ the clock and focus on those key enemies who will actually add precious seconds to the timer when destroyed, youíll have discovered the key element in playing and eventually winning Every Extend Extra.
For those that want to mix up the gameplay outside the main arcade mode you can try the Boss Rush mode that stacks the bosses one after the other in a brutal challenge that only seasoned experts should even attempt. You can also play your favorite levels in any order you chose in the Caravan mode, but only have you have unlocked them in the linear arcade mode.
There is also a fun multiplayer mode that allows two players to battle on the same playing field with explosions adversely affecting the other player. The game even supports Game Sharing so you can play with somebody who doesnít even have the game.
Please donít let the screenshots fool you. Every Extend Extra is a gorgeous game that is continuously in motion and looks much better while playing than trying to snap any individual moment. The playing fields are alive with multiple levels of depth creating an almost 3D experience that can easily put you in a trance if you arenít careful.
The HUD is a bit intrusive and I would have enjoyed the option to turn it off or at least pick what information was displayed. The menus are simple and easy to navigate Ė nothing much to look at. Itís a pretty basic presentation for a fairly basic game.
Every Extend Extra has an impressive collection of music, mostly techno and trance stuff that you might be familiar with if you have played Lumines. The music is as trippy as the gameplay and visuals, and it all comes together in a very original and almost hypnotic style that will have you losing track of time.
For a game that is all about explosions, the sound effects are surprisingly weak, even with a good set of headphones, but this game is more about settling in for the musical experience than powerful effects so Iíll let it slide this time.
The single player arcade mode is only 9 levels, but with the steep learning curve and ramping difficulty Iím guessing most casual gamers will take 2-4 weeks to complete them and there is no reason why you wonít be coming back and back to beat your best scores and time. And then you can tackle the Boss Rush or just revisit your favorite stages in the Caravan mode. There is also an option to play the original Every Extend Extra game that inspired the PSP game.
And finally you have the addictive multiplayer mode with game share support. It all combines for a nice package of quality and addictive gameplay that can easily justify the $30 price tag, but once this game drops to $20 everybody who enjoys puzzles and intense action should own it.
Every Extend Extra is a totally original concept and a fresh approach to the growing population of puzzle games. I would have liked to have seen more levels, but considering I canít even get through the nine theyíve provided any additional content might be better saved for a sequel.
Now if they can only get this game ported over to Xbox Live Arcade so we can enjoy these mind-bending graphics and music in hi-def. Until then, rest assured that the PSP has one of the finest selection of puzzle games out there and Every Extend Extra is one of them.