That mouthful of a title is Q? Entertainment‘s latest XBox Live Arcade game, Every Extend Extra Extreme. It’s essentially a re-imagining of the PSP Every Extend Extra which was a re-working of the freeware title Every Extend, a huge favourite of mine.
The PSP version was great in that it provided a nice, portable version of that favourite but I found the new additions to be lacking. I never really got into anything beyond the Classic mode. There was this tiered progression with levels and bosses that just didn’t appeal to me. While the original did have its own bosses, they acted more as a final chance for extra points than something impeding your progress. The real appeal of that game was getting big, explosive chains while dodging all the enemies to collect all their dropped bonuses. The balance was perfect and the two minute time limit only added to that. You had to be very precise and with really good timing to maximize your score. It was, and remains, a great quick play game.
Every Extend Extra Extreme takes that original game down another direction altogether. The main “unlimited” game has no tiered levels or bosses, but single stages distinguished by visual theme and music. It has that old two minute time limit but this time it throws enough “time extend” items your way to perpetually increase the game’s duration into the hours-long range. This mode also has no lives so you’re free to explode as often and as poorly as you like. It takes away some of the strategy since you can get into a pattern of explode, chain, respawn and pick up stray items in your seconds of invulnerability, explode again and repeat ad nauseam. You never have to dodge enemies or bullets since nearly all the time you are either invulnerable or watching a protracted explosion chain play out. If this sounds boring then, well, it certainly can be. To an extent. Despite the mostly passive gameplay it still manages to hypnotize you in a way that only Q? can do. It’s partly the visual design but, mostly, it’s all about the music.
Unlike Lumines, the music here isn’t just for ambiance and atmosphere. It is integrated into the gameplay which reacts (loosely) based on the track’s BPM and rewards the player for playing along to the beat. The effect isn’t that pronounced but you can find yourself getting into the music and tapping your finger over the button more so than in other visually noisy games like Geometry Wars where, after a while, you tune the music right out to focus on the other more important audio cues. Those kind of audio markers are limited in E4 so you never need to pay attention to them, you only need to focus on the music because it has all that information encoded in its beat.
In this way it almost compensates for the visually noisy playfield in a way that Space Giraffe fails to do. In Space Giraffe you have to quickly parse any useful information out of the busy playfield, the busy user interface and the busy audio, here you only need to really concentrate on the game. The tight design and colour selection further brings it all together into a very nice little package.
Above all, Every Extend Extra Extreme feels to be the closest realization of that Kandinsky-inspired experience that Mizuguchi has been trying to create since Project-K(andinsky), aka. Rez.
Most fittingly, when I checked the high scores of the Wiz Ur Muzik mode yesterday — where you can play the game to any song you like, after some tedious beat detection (would be nice if it was a lot more real time) — I noticed that the number one player achieved his score to the tune of Underworld’s “Rez” (that score has since been bested). It was too perfect to be coincidence.
- Who was also the lead on the original SEGA Rally. I just wrote impressions of the new Revo demo.
- You have to go through this elaborate process and manually fine tune things so that the beat matches up perfectly. I guess the precision required ruled out any on the fly beat detection. Still, in a package as tight as this that whole process felt overly tedious.
Addendum: also see the brief Idle Thumbs discussion and my comments at gamesetwatch.