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Every Extend Extra (PSP) artwork

Every Extend Extra (PSP) review

"In a short time, Q Entertainment has managed to make only a few games, but all of them proved to be impressive in one way or another. Lumines became a very good reason to buy a PSP, while Meteos is still considered to be one of the best titles for Nintendo DS. Who's the designer behind all of these successes? Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who started as a game designer at United Game Artists. His first success was Rez, a "music shooter" with a trippy graphics style and original concept, which was released ..."

In a short time, Q Entertainment has managed to make only a few games, but all of them proved to be impressive in one way or another. Lumines became a very good reason to buy a PSP, while Meteos is still considered to be one of the best titles for Nintendo DS. Who's the designer behind all of these successes? Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who started as a game designer at United Game Artists. His first success was Rez, a "music shooter" with a trippy graphics style and original concept, which was released for the Dreamcast and the PS2. Rez wasn't too popular, but it still remains a masterpiece for many gamers who played it. After Lumines and Meteos, Mizuguchi wanted to make a game which shared Rez's unique style. The solution: Every Extend Extra.

The Every Extend Extra project is based on an older freeware game for the PC called Every Extend. The concept from the old game hasn't changed at all. Instead of avoiding enemies in order to keep yourself as healthy as possible, here you'll have to blow yourself up. Yes, you heard it, you have to blow up your own ship (which looks like a star-shaped wireframe) admist passing enemies, so you can trigger chain reactions. When you compile enough chains, you get Extends and Extras. Extend is the equivalent of time in other games, while Extras are lives. The number of Extends is shown on the left of the screen, below your score and your total score. The game sounds pretty easy, with the condition of getting used to the concept. In fact, you need to be strategic, as you have to stalk the playfield waiting for exactly the right moment to destroy yourself, to achieve the maximum score.

As you begin, it takes some time to realize that you don't have any conventional weapons. The control is minimalistic. By pressing any of the face buttons, your ship will explode, which costs you a life. However, the explosion also sends out an impressive shockwave that will destroy nearby enemies. Once an enemy destroyed, the explosion will send out their own shockwave. Players can create very impressive chain reactions. There's also a time limit and a certain stock number of bombs. You must keep in mind as well that, once destroyed, certain enemies will release colorful gems when destroyed. By collecting these gems, you can increase your number of Extras(lives). Indicated by a purple bar on the right of the screen, quickness is gained by collecting purple-coloured crystals from similarly-shaded enemies. Each notch on the quickness meter, along with making you faster and spanning more enemies onto the playfield, builds up the soundtrack and generally makes things more up-beat, thanks to the extra sound layers. If you crash into an enemy, not only you get rid of an Extra, but the sound becomes dull, while you get into a bad mood.

To understand all of this, you will have to play the tutorial, as simply reading the manual won't help at all. In these conditions, the manual is useless, which is a negative for such an intricate game.

In arcade mode, 9 levels await you, each one ending with a majestic boss battle. There are also two secret levels for experienced players. Wait, only 11 levels altogether?! Well, it seems so. However, the team of developers from Q Entertainment paid close attention to the design of each level, so each level looks unique. And somehow the 11 levels manage to be satisfying!

The essence of the graphics isn't the engine, but the graphical style. Visually speaking, Every Extend Extra is comparable with Meteos and Lumines, but is reminiscent of Rez. Mizguchi's trippy visual style makes everything look more attractive and more complex than it is. The hypnotic graphics make the game look even more impressive than other games with performant 3D engines. When your enemies look like twinkling stars or odd human skulls, the style of the game cannot possibly be dull. Once you experienced the game, you will remember it's visuals for the rest of your life. However, there are so many times where you have the impression that the graphics were the most important aspect for Mizguchi. The gameplay mechanism is very original (and repetitive), but also old-school in the same time. As a consequence, the gameplay may seem bland to many gamers. If you have never played a 2D shooter and you are used to complex games, there's a great chance that you won't like this game.

But if you actually enjoyed games like Space Invaders or Cybertron years ago, you could love Every Extend Extra. It may not seem revolutionary, but it is one of the first, if not the first, shmups to get rid of the "originary sin" - harsh difficulty. Almost every 2D shooter suffered because of this. Gamers who play this kind of game have to be really dedicated and almost masochist, as the satisfaction of mastering such a game doesn't seem too rewarding to casuals. EEE is the first shmup ever that even casuals can pick up. Not every casual player will understand the game, but anyway it's a very big achievement for this genre. If the developers would actually try harder to compensate some other negative parts, the shoot'em-up genre would revive on the PSP, DS and Xbox Live Arcade. Only the boss fights are a bit more frustrating, but it's worth the efforts.

Sounds are layered into gameplay mechanics, which means that you can create your own soundtrack just by playing the game! Every action you make and your overall performance determine what sounds you will hear.

The soundtrack, composed of electronic music by artists such as Quiet Personal Electronics, is indeed mind-bending and also it matches perfectly what happens in the game. The most irritating thing is the 10-second countdown siren, which is incredibly annoying!

The tagline "Music in your mind" is perfectly justified, as the music and the visuals become one. Q's concept, called "Synaesthesia", is the concept of "seeing sounds and hearing visuals", according to the developers, and has driven all of their titles so far. EEE is the ultimate proof of this concept. The combination of graphics and sound transforms the dull gameplay into a never-seen-and-heard-before gaming experience. The sound and the eye candy cannot possibly be separated from the gameplay.

Thanks to the repetitive gameplay, EEE has the gift of becoming a very addictive game in the hands of certain players. EEE is an incredibly absorbing game experience that manages to be more addictive than the good old slot machines from the arcades of the '80s. Combined with it's unique graphics and sound, I could say that EEE is a shooter unlike anything I ever played before. EEE is simply a game for those who appreciate a simple yet brilliantly-realised, score-driven gaming experience. Otherwise, you could hate it because of it's limited amount of raw content.

The game has a "score-topping" nature, meaning that it encourages you to improve your high scores over and over. A bit too repetitive, but the enemies never appear in the same place as previously.

But does it get old easily? Yes.

One of the major impidements is the relative shortness of the arcade mode, which can be finished in a really short amount of time. However, the developers also introduced few more gameplay modes. In the caravan mode you can play any levels you've already completed in the arcade mode. The boss-attack mode is similarly structured and it isn't much more interesting, but it provides some of the best visual moments the game has. Here you will face threats such as cybernetic plants and disco-themed spaceships. Spectacular, but not as challenging as you might think. EEE also includes the original Every Extend. However, it isn't very interesting, since it doesn't include the psychedelic graphics and sounds of EEE. There's also a two-player versus game to be played locally. Here you have to create chain reactions to push a giant, meteor-type object residing in the upper-right corner of the screen onto your opponent's screen. Interesting concept, but it gets a bit boring only after a couple of rounds.

Most of the PSP games have problems with the loading screens, but EEE's loading screens are short and boldy.

In the end, Every Extend Extra is one of those "either love it or hate it" games. Beyond the shortness of the arcade mode, you can still enjoy playing it after months (thanks to it's score-topping nature), with one condition - consume it in small doses, unless it proves to be too addictive! If you like a psychdelic, mesmerizing audio-video style or you loved the other games by Q Entertainment, you must give it a shot.

ponsardin2's avatar
Community review by ponsardin2 (December 17, 2006)

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