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.