Egregious entitlement error.
The premise of Every Extend Extra is as absurd as it is simple. You must blow up colored dots on the screen by charging up and detonating your own little cursor near them. It’s Tetris for suicide bombers.
The developers of EEE, Q Entertainment, have made a habit of turning tiny dot-sized premises into giant gameplay monsters like Lumines. However, EEE suffers from being too short, too derivative, and ultimately too small in every sense. The right elements are there, but in small proportions—more fizzle than bang.
[image1]To be fair, your tiny exploding cursor is not really supposed to be a cursor. The game calls it a “spaceship.” Your spaceship, however, has an uncanny resemblance to that maverick mark of punctuation: the asterisk. The game doesn’t explain why you are flying and self-destructing your magic asterisk, and you won’t really care. But the half-assed attempt to give a puzzle game a space-age story is just the first of many wrong moves.
By blowing up your asterisk, you set off chains of explosions among the constellations of colored dots that float randomly through the screen. Special dots drop bonuses, giving you more points, increasing the number of dots on the screen, and extending the time limit for the stage. Oh, the bonuses are in the shape of dots. Lots of dots, did I mention?
Not a lot of stages, though. There are seven in the main mode of the game, each with its unique visual palate and music. The best looking might be the one in which the dots look like little butterflies and the bosses look like flowers. It’s a rare moment of prettiness in what is otherwise a hectic, overly electronic, graphic soup. At worst, one level’s flashing background is filled with, you got it, dots! Some are real, some are background noise, and all of it is frustrating.
Frustrating because you are playing against both a clock and a rapidly diminishing number of “spaceships.” Racing against the clock makes the game properly hectic, but keeping tabs on how many spaceships you have left is distracting. If you pull off a huge chain, the game rewards you with an extra ship, but this is only indicated by a small number in the bottom right corner. And when the dots get hectic, taking your eyes off the action means certain death.
[image2]As Lumines cribs off Tetris’s playbook, so EEE has its own notable precursors. The first is a free flash game, Bugs, that might actually be better than EEE for its remarkably soothing visual and musical ambience. The other is, and I’m not kidding, the “hacking” mini-game from the recent PSP flop: Miami Vice. You know it’s bad when your game shows up as free on the internet and as a mini-game in another title long before you make it to market. Especially when that other game is Miami Vice. Sure EEE is a more complete experience than either of those two, but not by much.
What separates EEE’s gameplay from those others is the inclusion of boss fights. At the end of each level, your asterisk must square off against a series of luminescent shapes. One looks like a disco ball, another looks like a real spaceship, another looks like a merry-go-round. The bosses don’t have a lot of character, but at least they’re not dots. Oh, wait, I guess one of them is. F-ing dots.
To defeat the bosses, you have to hit them with chain explosions of varying lengths. This is done by timing the alignment of the constellations of dots, which is really the most puzzling aspect of this action-puzzle game. You can also separate your “ship” from its “energy core” to detonate from a distance, but this tactic doesn’t add much to the basic blowing up and evading mechanic. At its best, EEE is a tense waiting game in which you wait until the last possible moment to detonate a massive amount of dots at once.
But waiting gets old pretty quick, and since the other part of the game is evading (like Asteroids without a gun) the entire formula is a recipe for . . . hey, check out what’s going on outside! Is that a squirrel? He’s got a nut! (note: this picture was taken while writing this review).
[image3]The game comes with a few modes, including a versus ad-hoc mode and a copy of the original Every Extend (released for what console? I could look it up, but boy, what’s that rascally squirrel up to now?). You can also play through any level by itself or any boss fight—which are not really separate modes as much as they are fragments of the one main mode.
It will take about an hour from first turning on the game until you finish the seventh and final level (rumors of an extra two levels require more endurance than I’ve got to confirm). In order to entice you back, the game features a ramping difficulty. Perform well on one level, and the next level will be more difficult. However, no matter how well you do, it’s always through the same seven songs and the same seven bosses.
Those seven songs are decent though, and like most of Q’s titles, this one does a stellar job of integrating sampled sound effects into the music. Even moving your asterisk in different directions triggers different drum samples. It’s just a shame that there isn’t more.
And so Every Extend Extra, a game that could have filled the PSP’s need for fun and simple arcade action, blows itself up in a miniscule pop of disappointment. And if you want to be really disappointed, just wait until I write the review for Lumines II: Revenge of the Cross-Marketing Schemes.