As I write this, my right-index finger is twitching ever so slightly, I’m seeing phantom neon colours wherever I look, and I’m on constant edge waiting for a pressure warning siren.
To say that Surge Deluxe hit home with me is something of an understatement. You could be forgiven for seeing this little gem on the PS Store and passing over it as “just another puzzle game”. You would be wrong. But then, so was I.
Having never played the original Surge (released in December 2012 for PlayStation Mobile), all I was seeing from the screenshots was a series of blocks that you pop to get high scores and move on to the next level. At its core, that’s what this game is, but to really see the magic of Surge Deluxe, and to really appreciate it’s intricacies, we need to go deeper.
We Need to go Deeper (Gameplay)
As I mentioned before, at its core Surge Deluxe is a block popping game. Each group of blocks has a different colour (and, for the colourblind, each group of coloured blocks also has a unique shape, which I personally feel is a great addition to help colourblind players). You use the Vita’s touchscreen to draw electrified “Surge” lines on the screen to connect same-coloured blocks that have an exposed edge and make them assplode. The more blocks you assplode in a row before removing your finger from the screen, the higher your assmultiplier (ok, no more ass’s) will get, and the higher your score. Each level selects one block colour to be “star” blocks. These blocks are worth double asspoints (that was the last one). In addition to this there are also various combo-blocks randomly generated with each level, from the obvious 2x and 3x (etc.) multipliers, to more complex ones, like the “Chain Linker Block” which allows you to continue a combo with blocks of a different colour, and many more. If you accidentally hit a different colour while drawing your combo line, the whole thing gets cancelled and you have to start again, and this increases the panic and adrenaline, as there is a purpose to removing these blocks, oh yes!
Cue cheesy 80’s voiceover: “The year is… Sometime in the future. Quite a long way probably. Definitely further than a week next Tuesday. Mankind has created an unlimited source of power. As a byproduct of this incredible power source, loads of neon coloured blocks appear in the generation chamber and block the exhaust vents! Only one man can save us all from overheating superconductor meltdown! That man is…
OK so that’s my take on the story for Surge Deluxe anyway. And that’s, in effect, all you get given in way of storyline for this game. But then, it’s a puzzler, who needs storyline from a puzzle game? I don’t think my time with Tetris would have been enriched if it was interspersed with cut-scenes of the different shaped blocks having conversations… Oh wait maybe I would?
Metal Gear: Solids… One block will save the day.
I can just imagine it when he dies… “Straight?! STRAAIIIIGGGHHHTTTT!”
I’m going off the reservation a bit here… OK where was I? Oh yea, vents. So as the Ultimate Bionic Janitor you have to clear a way to these vents on either side of the screen to relieve the pressure that has been building up. If you can clear the same vent on either side, they will link to each other creating a coloured neon laser across the center of the screen. This is where tactics come in to play… Once you have opened these two vents of corresponding colour, it causes all of the blocks of that same colour still in play to vibrate. Those blocks are now worth MORE points. So you can be extremely tactical and clear your way to the vents of the same colour as the current levels star blocks, and then rack up huge star-block and multiplier combos near the end of the level, once the vents have been opened.
If the pressure bar on either side gets filled then the world explodes, puppies and kittens everywhere spontaneously combust and you get a stern letter asking you not to let it happen again.
Well actually that’s what I imagine happening. Actually I think that you just end that game and have to start over again, but I’m too busy crying over my Vita at this point to see what’s going on.
On top of the joy and sadness of the main game mode, you can also play through a series of predefined puzzles and match your wits (and your fingers) against the intellect of the games designers. You can also compare your scores to those of other worldwide (or local to you) players. Just in case you didn’t feel inadequate enough already. No, that’s not bitterness. I’m fine.
Super-massive Neon Hole (Art Style)
I’m a fan of Tron (and 70’s bar signs), so I’m extremely fond of the glowing neon art style used in Surge Deluxe, it’s simplistic, but eye catching. It also helps each block really stand out from those next to them, a huge plus when your finger is a blur across your Vita’s screen and you need to make the next move quickly. The digital line-drawing effect looks great and is in-keeping with the rest of the theme. Blocks assplode (HAH!) with lovely little effects and the neon vent lasers match your feeling of elation when you manage to open them and get a respite from the pressure (literally).
Over all of this is an excellently conceived soundtrack, fully fitting the electro-explosion theme of the gameplay itself. The soundtrack has been expertly created by Joris de Man, who has worked with Futurlab on their Velocity titles (and has previously worked on the Killzone series of games). The music bleeps, blips, bongs, and smacks you in the face with lashings of bass in all the right places, keeping your adrenaline levels up while you’re smashing blocks and saving the world and stuff. In fact, the gameplay, visuals and audio work so beautifully when all lined up next to each other that it’s hard to imagine playing this game with the audio off, it adds to the whole experience so well. It would be like taking a peanut butter and jam sandwich and removing the bread. And now you’re covered in a sticky mess. Idiot. Come closer so I can lick you.
Being a speed puzzler and not relying on story to drive things forward, Surge Deluxe has got tons of replay value, as much as your index finger can stand in fact, and the incredibly moreish nature of the gameplay means you’ll keep coming back for more, no matter how devastated you are at the loss of your last game.
Like all good puzzle games, Surge Deluxe acts like your prostitute. It feels amazing when you’re together, and when it ends you feel that sudden pang of guilt and denial, but no matter what you tell yourself and your girlfriend, you’ll always come back for more.
In fact, Surge Deluxe is BETTER than a prostitute, because you only have to pay for it once, and there’s nearly NO risk of venereal disease. Oh, AND it fits in your pocket. One-way-Sally can’t boast any of THAT can she? Also we’ve been informed that Surge Deluxe will fall in at under a fiver (£3.99 in the UK and $4.99 in the US). One-way-Sally charges £8.55, so it’s got her beat THERE too!
Stuck like Crazy-Glue (Cohesion)
As I said earlier (what do you mean you just skipped to the end?!), it isn’t just one element of Surge Deluxe that makes this game so great; you have to look at all of the pieces to appreciate the whole and with this game, all of the excellently imagined and executed pieces make a shining, neon whole in a world of blackness and despair. The Art, audio and gameplay all fit snugly together and play to perfection, but then, this is their second crack at the whip with this game, and with the help of the NeoGAF forums, they have certainly got it right.
Addictive, visually stimulating and enjoyable to play, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to put this thing down. You owe it to your Vita to add Surge Deluxe to it’s memory card.
Artistic Merit: 5/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Surge Deluxe: AMAZEBALLS! – Ready Player 2
You can find the lovely FutureLab guys at their website: http://www.futurlab.co.uk/
All images courtesy of FuturLab.