6 Reviews

Every Extend Extra

Mizuguchi absorbs our minds with an addictive and unique PSP blaster

For a small independent company Q Entertainment's track record is impressive. In its short history, the studio has already worked across three different platforms and gained critical success with the seminal music-puzzler Lumines, which isn't bad considering most of its employees are straight out of collage.

In case you're looking at the colourful screenshots and scratching your head in bemusement, Tetsuya Mizuguchi's studio has looked to the classic PC shooter Every Extend for its latest PSP entry, and remixed it with the mind-bending visuals and thumping soundtrack we've come to expect from the ex-Sega luminary.

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It's perhaps Q's most unique game yet, and thankfully just as addictive as its handheld brother Lumines.

The original PC title - for those not up on their freeware games - essentially has you manoeuvring a small 'cursor' around a top-down playfield, not unlike a traditional 2D shooter. However, things get a bit special when upon searching for a fire button you figure out that your only means of defence is by literally blowing yourself up, and taking as many baddies as you can with you.

As you can probably imagine this makes for some pretty strategic gameplay, as you stalk the playfield waiting for exactly the right moment to destroy yourself in a blaze of glory and, in a shockwave of explosions, dispatch most the screen's square-shaped obstacles.

But obviously there'd be little challenge on offer if you could suicide to your heart's content, so in the PSP game Q has wisely limited the number of times you can go boom with a 'stock' counter on the side of the screen, with mass-kills being your only means of topping it up.

Add to this a forever-present countdown timer and there's even more strategy involed in where and when you choose to press the big red button. A poor detonation can land you with a life wasted, but a crafty demolition could rack-in the points and pile up your stock. It sounds addictive already, doesn't it? And our written warning for missed morning tube stops says it is.

As with Miz's previous titles, everything in EEE - or E3 as Q likes to call it (we suppose that abreviation is available now) - is designed for replayability and hefty levels of addiction. The game features your standard shooter 'arcade' mode, which is divided into levels with end bosses, and Caravan mode, which is a score attack-style affair which unlocks new levels after successful arcade bouts. There are only nine 'levels' plus two secret ones on offer, but as with cult music blaster Rez, its obvious that a lot of thought has gone in to their design.

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Levels are all constructed with, ah, levels of flair and overwhelming uniqueness almost un-seen in rival shooters. It's obvious that this school of design is aimed squarely at a certain breed of gamer, but if that 'beat-the-best-score' hook grabs your fancy then it can be a more rewarding game experience than even the most epic of RPGs, and you'll probably end up destroying a few PSP batteries, as we have.

They're also spectacular and absorbing in a visual sense; using a 'skin' setup similar to Lumines E3's levels are completely unique from each other right down to how the enemies explode, and even what they look like. One level, for example, has horsefly enemies that burst into colourful fireworks, while in another rock-like baddies explode in a gorgeous firework display. Don't judge E3 by the screenshots - it really has to be seen in motion to be appreciated.

Boss fights offer further twists to the standard game formula; anything from a trio of venus fly-traps to a flailing-armed sea creature come your way, and you're tasked with chaining up a certain number of enemies in order to harm them. For example, when asked to hit the boss character with a chain of five, you'll have to actually work through a line of five before making contact in order to inflict damage on the boss. This can become quite tricky when presented with higher numbers, and in later stages boss characters can become what we would probably call in the pub "bat shit insane."

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