From the earlier days of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong to the modern era of Geometry Wars and Pinball FX, the allure of the high score has been a part of videogames for decades. And with the downfall of the arcades led to the rise of online, and in particular, online leaderboards. FuturLab’s Surge Deluxe is a game that thrives on the thrill of beating your friend’s score and there’s nothing better.
An update of a Playstation Mini game, Surge Deluxe is more than just a rehash brought onto the Vita. A lot of care and attention has been taken in the transfer, with a new puzzle mode, the aforementioned leaderboards and being more welcoming to the colour blind with each block having a specific shape as opposed to just different colours. Though being able to differentiate between different shapes in the heat of the action may still be a little more challenging when the action ramps up. And boy, does it ramp up.
The basic crux of Surge Deluxe is a simple as the best in the genre. You’re given a number of coloured blocks on both sides of the screen. Using the touch screen you must connect each block with the same colour, creating chains to gain more points, once each screen is cleared you’re onto the next. Simple premise that has different layers of difficulty stacked on top. You see, on top of matching colours you need to keep an eye on the timer at the bottom of the screen which resets once each screen is complete, connecting three or more blocks recharges it. Added difficulty comes from the two gauges at the left and right of the screen. If these reach the top of the screen then it’s game over.
To drain the gauges then you’ll need to create a space next to each gauge. Touching them drains them slightly, but connecting each one to the corresponding one on the other side (as long as there are no blocks blocking the way) drains it faster. Naturally as each screen gets cleared this gets faster and faster until you’re frantically trying to clear the way to reach each gauge. While there are instructions in the menus of Surge Deluxe, there is a handy tutorial that shows you the ropes the first time you play Surge Deluxe. Initially it seems a lot to take in with not only the gauges and the timer, but also the special blocks, it soon becomes second nature. And that’s when the addiction sets in.
You’ll soon become targeted on that next score in line, which is always handily placed in the top right corner. Boosting your score being aided from everything to multipliers, to bomb blocks, to even one that changes every block to a specific colour. Then there are those blocks that do their best to trip you up. The ones which change colour every couple of seconds led to a few nightmare moments, and it’s worth noting that connect one block to the wrong colour and it resets the line, costing valuable time. With each failed attempt you’ll be quick to jump back in, “one more go” you’ll say to yourself, and before you know it you’re suffering from hand cramp after hours of playtime.
The best part about Surge Deluxe is that there is a strategy to it. With time being more favourable during the earlier screens, it’s wise to maximise score as much as possible. Yet, as the game progresses and time becomes more of an issue, you’ll start to sacrifice the maximum points in order to just get the screen clear as fast as possible. That’s our strategy anyway, we’re sure there are plenty of other people out there who will adopt another, probably better one. And that’s what makes Surge Deluxe great.
If you fancy taking a breather after the more intense, standard game there is also the puzzle mode. A welcome addition that presents you a pattern of blocks that need to be destroyed. Each puzzle coming with a score that must be reached, so planning out how to destroy each block for maximum points is more prevalent than clearing the screen as fast as possible.
Puzzle games have always been a highlight on handhelds, and Surge Deluxe carries on this tradition. It’s amazing that despite largely lacking the AAA blockbuster titles, the Vita has become something of an indie paradise. Surge Deluxe is the latest, and one of the best.