Every Extend Extra Extreme
Publisher: Q Entertainment
Developer: Q Entertainment
Release Date: October 17, 2007
Every Extend Extra Extreme, in addition to being quite a mouthful, is the sort of game that can suck away your time unlike any other. This vibrant, addictive Xbox Live Arcade gem is the sort of title where you sit down expecting a 10-minute romp, and instead find yourself peering at the clock through blurry eyes, only to realize that hours have passed. The first time I ever played this little beauty, it was 11:00 p.m. By the time I thought to check and see how long I had been playing, it was going on 3:00 a.m., and I was still on my very first game. Consider yourself warned; your already-precious free time is about to become extinct.
The gameplay of E4 is deceptively simple yet immensely entertaining. You pilot a compass-shaped ship around the screen, with enemies slowly drifting in from all sides. Your objective is to detonate your ship at precisely the right moment, setting off a big chain reaction that results in major points. As baddies explode, they take out other nearby units, and before long, you have a multi-thousand point combo all originating from one simple button press. Those familiar with more simple online games like Boomshine will find E4 to be immediately familiar, and just as fun.
The game's main mode, Infinite, gives you a time limit and tasks you with racking up as many points as possible before the clock strikes zero. As you set off explosions, power-ups will litter the stage. These goodies include the ability to fly around longer before your shield wears off (thus making you vulnerable to accidentally ramming into an enemy), bonus multipliers, faster enemies (resulting in bigger chains), and time extensions. What at first appears to be a strikingly simple affair quickly becomes a highly strategic one, as you must balance scoring points with gaining power-ups in order to continue the game.
The antithesis of this free-for-all is Limited mode, a more strictly timed affair that creates a more frantic air. There is also Revenge mode, which removes the exploding ship chain reaction mechanic altogether and replaces it with more standard enemy-shooting and boss battles. Think Everyday Shooter for the stoner set. Unfortunately, Revenge mode becomes a bore quite quickly, as the same five stages and bosses are repeated over and over again, but with the difficulty turned up a smidgeon every time. Since there is no discernable end to this mode (or objective, for that matter), you'll likely find yourself simply playing until you get bored, and then flying into enemies or bosses in the hopes of burning through your last couple of ships and going home.
That brings us to the visuals, which are so trippy and vibrant that they could cause you to think you're on an acid trip even if you are stone-cold sober. The tie-dyed graphics and constant bursts of color emanating from downed enemies immediately made me think that those gamers who may be prone to seizures should stay away from this one, as it is a full-on visual assault. When played in HD, E4 hits you with a palette that is basically unmatched in any other game I've seen.
These trance-inducing visuals are coupled with thumping electronica music to give you the full club experience. As the controller throbs and the bass line rumbles, your attacks add the tics and synth accents that fill out the experience. While not as full-bodied as Rez HD, your interaction with the music here is still enough to get your blood pumping.
In addition to the included soundtrack, gamers may also rip their own tunes into the game using the "Wiz Ur Muzik" mode. With built-in tools, the game will analyze any song you have stored on your hard drive and turn it into a level. The downside is that this mode only works with House music, as other genres tend to leave you with boring, uninspired levels. Thankfully, the process is quick and painless (the game only needs to hear a song once to analyze and convert it), so even if your tunes don't lend themselves to the experience, you won't be out a lot of time and effort.
While E4 is a truly fun experience, it's not for everyone. The undirected gameplay (your only real objective is to get a high score) will likely turn off those who need a more focused affair. Also, the game's mechanics are a bit confusing at first, so those who don't catch on quickly will likely walk away from this one, never to return. I personally tried the trial mode of E4, didn't get it, and then left it alone until I got the review assignment. It was only after I had toyed around with it for a bit that it really sunk in and I found myself truly entranced.
In spite of these quibbles, Every Extend Extra Extreme is still a title that I would heartily recommend to nearly anyone. It's just offbeat enough to earn its indie label, and once you get going, it really is next to impossible to put it down. Just don't drop any acid or take any Ecstasy before firing it up; otherwise, you likely won't know where the game ends and you begin.