With each passing month, the PS Vita becomes more of a ‘must have’ handheld system. This is in no small part due to the support it is getting from indie developers. Sony has made it incredibly easy to make and publish games for it, meaning that the smaller devs have another outlet for their titles.
One such game is Surge Deluxe, a frantic puzzle game from FutureLab. The premise of the game is simple; connect two or more blocks of the same colour together in order to clear the blocks and the level. Now, I know that sounds simple and not very challenging, but the player is pushed to get this done as quickly as possible by the inclusion of two timing mechanisms. Firstly, there is the timer. With each passing level the time the player has to complete the level shortens.
Then there is the venting system. As progress is made through the level, energy is building up, and the only way to vent it is to clear the blocks. Along the left and right side of the screen are coloured vents, and when the vents are cleared of blocks, I could tap on both sides of the screen which would then open them. This allowed the energy to be released and gave me more time. It also made the blocks near the vents worth more points when I cleared them. Not only are the vents there to add urgency to the game, but also to use to increase your score.
Surge Deluxe is all about the score. Along with the coloured blocks, the game throws special blocks at the player; some to help and others to hinder. These range from score multipliers and link blocks, to blocks that quickly change colour. There are some clever ideas here and when used properly they can really increase the score. The linking block, for example, allows players to create a chain with one colour, then continue the chain to another colour. The challenge comes from using the special blocks at the right time to maximize the score. The game also keeps the player informed as to what score they are aiming for. Whether it was a friend’s high score, or my own high score, the game showed me the goal in the top right of the screen – adding a little pressure to the game in the process.
With each passing level, the game gets harder and faster. I often found myself in a panic as either the timer or the vents started to put the pressure on. I also found during those moments that the touch screen controls let me down a little. The game uses only the touch screen to connect the blocks, and even though my hands aren’t big, when the game was putting me under pressure and I was having to connect the blocks more quickly, I often found that I was struggling to connect them. This only led to more pressure and normally failure. It was the only flaw I found with the game play, but it did become a little frustrating as I got further in to the game.
The game also has a Puzzle mode. Each puzzle invites the player to clear the blocks out in a particular way as to obtain the required score. There is no countdown timer with these, but they do get devilishly difficult. I was even stuck on the second one for a while. I did find, however, that the longer I played the Puzzle Mode, the better I got with them. My brain just took a while for me to become tuned to what the game was asking of me. There are only two modes in the game, but considering that Surge Deluxe only costs $4.99, it’s not a massive deal-breaker.
Surge Deluxe is perfect for a handheld system, allowing the player to dip in and out as they please. A long wait in a queue or a 15 minute bus ride is the ideal opportunity to whip out the Vita and take another crack at the high score. It may just be following in a long line of similar puzzle type games, but it does bring colour and energy to the genre (literally). The pacing of the levels makes it easy to play but hard to master, and the emphasis on the leader boards means that I will come back to the game time and again to try and beat my friend’s scores.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.