Game Description: Every Extended Extra is a unique arcade-style puzzle experience! When your ship enters a colorful vortex, you're sucked into the action as you take one weird enemies. Use your ability to set off explosions to take out enemies, and your skills at dodging and weaving to keep from colliding with them—then set off that big boom that takes them all out. Think fast and use your brain to avoid going BOOM yourself.
Q Entertainment's interpretation of the acclaimed freeware shooter Every Extend is not so much a Version 1.5 (as the title suggests), but rather a showy elaboration on the one-level original that brings it up to Version 1.0 standard for the PSP. It also turns Every Extend into a Tetsuya Mizuguchi game, and the Rez/Lumines maestro's fingerprints are evident within seconds.
But it's a testament to the source material that its hook is noticed first. A superb mechanic it is, too: You play as a bomb and must detonate yourself to catch enemies in the blast radius, who in turn explode and destroy other enemies caught in their blast radii. Setting off chains of explosions in this way racks up the points, which increases the player's reserve of bombs (‘lives') and allows him to die another day in the pursuit of high scores and more fireworks of destruction.
So as the old comedy saying goes, it's all about timing. Treating the ebb and flow of onscreen enemies like the stand-up treats his audience, it's as important to take chances when they're right where one wants them as it is not prudent to dissipate reserves with cheap and easy shots. But, as every good comic knows, you've also got to learn to pick yourself back up after a mistake, and positioning the bomb correctly when being placed back onscreen after a ‘death' is often crucial.
Anyway, comedy analogy aside, Every Extend Extra remains first and foremost a shooter. Despite the ironic twist of being the bomb rather than the bomb-dispenser, that irony is suitably untwisted again once we realise how important traditional bullet-dodging techniques become. They too are all part of the timing, as players watch and avoid the floating enemies before winding in amongst them to set up a killer chain reaction.
Power-ups too play a major factor in this risk-reward equation: do I bolt for the time extending power-up to grab a few extra seconds, the ‘Quicken' orb to speed up the enemy onslaught (and high-score potential), or do I grab the score pellets to bolster my dwindling bomb supply? Respectful additions to the formula come in the shape of charge bomb and remote bomb abilities, which adventurous players can take advantage of once the basics of the original have become second nature.
It is certainly a more instinctive game than Mizuguchi's other PSP gem Lumines, with forward planning less crucial to success. But in its own way it is just as cerebral, as I scour the screen looking for the perfect nook or cranny to set off a domino-effect bomb against incoming enemy waves. There is certainly never a dull moment and the brain is always assessing pattern combinations and making split decisions, perhaps even more frenetically than in Lumines. If it feels too cheaply satisfying and disposable at times then it counters with its immediacy and fun factor, but it is true that without a penchant for high-score chasing there is little motivation to play once a decent selection of the levels (or "Drives") have been seen.
Not that the game isn't compellingly hypnotic from an aesthetic viewpoint alone. Again Mizuguchi's work has taken to the PSP with a precision and slickness few can match; the vivid colours and spectacular effects are revelling in that luxurious screen as if it were launch day. Although initially the audio interactivity feels straightforward and nothing beyond Rez or Lumines territory, the simple masterstroke of quickening the music tempo in line with accumulated ‘Quicken' power-ups (and therefore the game speed) adds a tense, breakneck sense of danger to high score runs.
Yet there's no getting away from the title's brevity and unfortunately it does not benefit from the value-adding bonus modes that made Lumines II such a satisfyingly complete package of a similarly simple game—although ironically a Lumines II demo is included as an extra. Away from consumer concerns, however, the game succeeds almost beyond reproach in bringing Every Extend to the PSP. From the original's innovative conceit to this tribute's stylish execution, Every Extend Extra weaves a shoot-‘em-up tapestry of unique merit.
Although I can certainly understand Andrew's sentiments regarding Every Extend Extra, I'm not sure that I can echo them. Not having been familiar with the freeware source material, I approached the game knowing almost nothing about it besides the fact that it was another signature Mizuguchi piece, and it is. Familiar with Rez and Lumines, I found myself quite at home with EEE's sights and sounds.
As expected, Mizuguchi does not disappoint. The graphics are hypnotic, almost overwhelming with their intensity. The music is a fitting compliment. I don't think that the bursts of sound emanating from each explosion succeed in the sort of "create a dynamic sound" effect the game was going for, but then again, I don't think the same mechanic was successful in Rez, either. Clearly one of Mizuguchi's pet projects, I'm sure he'll try his hand at synesthesia again.
Audio and visuals aside, my main issues with Every Extend Extra are twofold: the length and the core play mechanic.
The length (seven standard levels and two hidden) wouldn't be an issue if the game was priced a little lower, but the sole retail copy I managed to find clocked in at $30. I managed to get through the game a few times the first day, and I had little motivation to go back and improve my score. That's a pretty steep buy-in for a couple of hours with a game that I don't feel has legs—a direct result of my second complaint, the core play mechanic.
Clearly positioned as a "puzzle" game and not as some sort of psycho-shooter the way the similarly brief Rez was, Every Extend Extra can be frustrating due to the apparent randomness of enemy patterns and their frequency. The point of the game is to set off chain reactions, but if the enemies never appear or appear in awkward configurations, chain reactions are impossible. It's clearly stated that picking up the "quicken" items will increase the appearance of said enemies (and they do), but the overall tone comes across as too heavily based in luck, and not something able to be controlled with skill the way a board can be worked by a seasoned Lumines or Tetris player.
This random aspect to scoring opportunities is especially aggravating during the "boss" sequences when players are supposed to attack by scoring a combo chain with the enemy on the receiving end of the explosions. It doesn't feel enjoyable or fair to try and rack up a 12-combo pointed in a certain direction when the only enemies available are drifting across in clusters of three on the wrong side of the screen with the clock counting down to game over.
As an experiment of sorts, Every Extend Extra brings an independent sensibility and definite auteur flavor. I like the concept and I like its energy, and I certainly don't mean to come off as someone who's wanting yet another variation of the falling-block formula. However, in its current state it seems more tailored towards being a demo or download—in fact, the game is slated to be available on Xbox Live Arcade shortly. In that arena, I think EEE will probably succeed. As a retail-release game asking for my investment, it comes up short both figuratively and literally.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Mild Fantasy, Violence
Parents have nothing to concern themselves with here and the ‘Everyone' ESRB rating is trustworthy. A pure videogame from its one-screen movement space to its high-score tables, the only lurid things about Every Extend Extra are its disco lighting and clashing colors.
Shoot-‘em-up aficionados may well be split by EEE: On the one hand it lacks the sadistically tempting brick wall challenge of many famous exponents of the genre and it is fairly easy to see the credits roll. However, the mechanic at its heart is really a wonderful twist on shooter norms and, like the multiple lock-on system of Mizuguchi's Rez, it's embellished with enough style and perfectionist potential to make high score and just-for-fun runs persistently inviting.
Fans of Tetsuya Mizuguchi's distinctive ‘light and sound' gaming experiments will find EEE just as satisfyingly hypnotic as Lumines or Rez once they have reached a certain level of mastery, but the short levels and lack of varied content must be noted as cautions to those who prize value-for-money as much as the core experience.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers will sadly miss out on the game's invigoratingly interactive audio elements, and though it still satisfies on a basic gameplay level regardless, Mizuguchi's remix was clearly intended to be (like all his games) as much a full sensory experience as possible, so diminished audio reception undoubtedly diminishes its appeal to some degree.