Match-3 game is match-3.
You know that look your pet will give you when you give it a toy it doesn’t want? It might paw at it for a few moments but eventually look back at you to do something, anything else. Well, that’s the look my husband gave me when I passed him Surge Deluxe, FuturLab’s native Vita port of Surge. I thought that maybe there was something I was missing during my time with it, but it might be the game that’s missing something, not me.
Surge Deluxe purports to “electrify match-3” games by literally inserting electricity into a match-3 game. You are presented with a screen full of colored blocks, which you must eliminate by drawing connections between them using your finger on the Vita touchscreen. You are not limited to matching together adjacent pieces; in fact, unless one side is exposed, a piece will remain unavailable.
During the course of this presumed matching fun, vents on either side of the screen file up. When you successfully eliminate a row of blocks on either side, you gain the ability to open a vent. Opening matching vents causes a laser beam of release to shoot between them, which increases your score for matching pieces of the same color.
That’s really what Surge Deluxe comes down to: finding a way to maximize your score while preventing the vents from becoming completely clogged with surge goo or... something. As multiplier, combiner, switcher, and frenzy blocks enter the mix, the Vita screen becomes an '80s delight of color, filled to the brim with connections, vent lasers, and shiny words letting you know that you’re doing well. There’s even a robotic voice that calls you a cyborg on occasion.
Maybe that’s what ultimately doesn't thrill me about this game. I felt like a cyborg, clearing level after level with no added goals or mix-up in mechanics in sight. Eventually, the vents fill up fast enough that unless you’re raging on endorphins, you will throw combo strategy out the door in an effort to clear at least one row to start venting.
Whereas some of fun with Tetris is due to the speed increasing while you deal with the pieces left from the last level and plotting how to place the next piece, Surge Deluxe just resets the screen and asks you to speed it up. The blocks in each level are completely random, so unlike Candy Crush Saga, you don’t have any unique goals to break up the tedium. And the visuals, with colors are oddly reminiscent of Virtue’s Last Reward, lack any lasting charm like Critter Crunch or Dr. Mario/Luigi.
There is also a puzzle mode of 15 levels, whose shared goal is to find a way to clear a certain score. Each puzzle has a set pattern, and using a combination of colors, special blocks, and open vents, you need to find a way to clear the level while scoring big points for doing so. Although there isn’t a time limit, to get on the boards you will need to go back and swing your fingers around faster, y’know, like a cyborg.
Critter Crunch managed to entertain me for 100 puzzle levels, some of which highly frustrated me and took days to ponder. On the other hand, Surge Deluxe lost me after just a few. To its credit, it is more interesting to consider the game’s fundamentals for more than a split second while trying to clean house. But that doesn’t make it good.
The appeal of a puzzle game should be in the task assigned. Just matching colors with greater expedience is not a particularly fun assignment, and the way Surge Deluxe lays all its cards out on the table right at the start leaves little to no interest for what’s ahead. Oh, and the soundtrack has exactly one song that will play forever, independent of game mode or would-be suicidal tendencies. Objectively speaking, it’s a game with visuals that functions, and that’s how it shall be scored.
Code provided by publisher. Review based on Vita version.