Review by MGreen

Reviewed: 02/12/07

A good idea, but a poor result.

Every Extend Extra, the latest title from Mizoguchi's Q? Entertainment, tries to bring the company away from the classic block-based puzzle games it's produced so far into the realm of the arcade game.

The basic idea of the game is that you're controlling a ship and trying to destroy enemies of different types. However, you have no weapon - the only thing you can do is to blow your own ship up, hoping to catch enemies in the explosion. But if you manage to do so, those enemies will also explode, potentially catching further enemies in their explosions and so on - until you have a nice big chain reaction clearing the screen for you. Of course, in order to set up the chain reaction, you'll have to dodge and weave like crazy around the enemies and their bullets in order to get into the right place at the right time. You have a finite number of lives, which are lost either by hitting enemies or by blowing yourself up; because of that, it's essential to keep scoring enough to gain extra lives. These are called "extends" by Japanese gamers, thus the name of the game - it's important to get "every extend". There's also a time limit.

The graphics and sound are classic Mizoguchi. Simple, effective graphics in the foreground moving over complex backgrounds that strongly define a theme. They look great, are well designed, move smoothly and are varied and creative. Likewise the sound, consisting mostly of atmospheric electronica music, sounds excellent - although it might lose a little by having to be played by the PSP, which leaves it sounding a little lightweight. But there are no complaints in either of those areas.

But the gameplay is more problematic. You see, Every Extend was actually originally a freeware game for the PC - and you can still download it as such. The freeware version doesn't have any of the trippy graphics, but it does have essentially the same gameplay. Yes, you read that correctly - they haven't added any major new features to the gameplay at all, so basically you're paying your dollars to play a freeware game with better graphics and sound. There are a few gameplay changes to the original, but they're not that significant and some of them are actually frustrating - for example, it takes longer for new craft to appear in Every Extend Extra.

The big change to the gameplay is the new boss battles. The boss designs re massively improved over the relatively simple designs in the original - although the bosses no longer display the names of their attacks before unleashing them, which was a neat quirky anime-style feature of the original. But the boss battles can also be very frustrating. In the original game, only the super-secret hidden boss "A-BA Hedron" had a minimum requirement for size of chain reaction to hurt him, and when you fought him the other enemies entering the screen did so in special custom patterns that were particular to each of his stages. In this version, just about every stage of every boss has a minimum chain requirement, and the enemy patterns stay the same as normal. And since normal enemy patterns are basically random, this means you spend a lot of time sitting waiting and hoping that the enemies will arrange themselves correctly. Time limit running short, but it's so happened that the next few enemies spawn on the opposite side of the stage to the boss and travelling slowly? Tough; you'll have to play the entire stage again.

There are a total of 11 stages, but most of them are identical apart from the graphics and sound and the boss battle, so essentially you're just playing Every Extend 11 times with different graphics and sounds - it doesn't seem that there are many actual tweaks to the gameplay parameters, as there are in Lumines. And the game suffers from the same problem Lumines did - you can't restart the "Arcade" mode in the middle, so once you've finished a few stages, you won't be able to step up to the challenge of unlocking the next stage until you have spent a long while slogging through the stages you completed long ago.

So, essentially this is an excellent idea for a game, but unfortunately unless you are happy with paying only for graphical and sound upgrades, it fails to add that much to the original game to be worth the full asking price. Some people might still enjoy it, but try out the free version and rent it first.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

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