Surge Deluxe is a Match-3 game utilising the Vita’s touch screen and a reboot of the successful Surge that was released on PlayStation Mobile in 2012. Having not played the original I was able to experience Surge Deluxe with fresh eyes. In the masses of match-3 games available, it stands out from the crowd.
There are two modes, the main game, simply titled Play on the menu screen, and a puzzle mode, which my little birds tell me is new to the Deluxe version. The aim is to clear the screen of different coloured blocks and get a high score. Sound familiar? Sound easy? That’s because it is both, but there is more to Surge than meets the eye. Learning the ropes is easy but mastering the skills required to get those high scores isn’t, and that’s where the game comes into its own.
On entering the main game, you are presented with two stacks of blocks on either side of the screen. The blocks are different colours but only the ones on the outside of the stacks are highlighted; the others are inaccessible until you clear the outer blocks. There is a timer on the bottom of the screen but to really ramp up the pressure, there are also gauges at the sides which need to be vented. As you play, the pressure gradually builds up until it reaches the top and then it’s game over. The vents are covered by the blocks – you begin to see the dilemma.
So you have two countdowns to worry about. In the beginning stages this isn’t much of a problem and it’s some time before the difficulty really spikes, without much in between, something that will probably frustrate players at first. It’s at this point you realise there’s more to Surge than just randomly hitting blocks of the same colour. You need to keep an eye on what’s going on and plan your moves, all within seconds.
You connect the blocks with your finger. This isn’t like Bejewelled or Candy Crush Saga where you need to swap blocks and move them next to each other. Instead you draw a line of electricity between the same coloured blocks, whether they’re on the other side of the screen or tucked in a little nook. The trick is to not hit any other colours otherwise the connection will be broken and you will have to start again. Accuracy and speed are what’s needed here but you will learn if you don’t have those skills; you simply won’t be able to progress if you don’t.
New blocks with different properties are gradually introduced. You have the multipliers, which increase your score, the chain linkers, which allow you to connect two or more strings of different colours, switchers, the nasty ones which change colour every second and can really mess up a good run if not timed properly, and frenzy blocks, the best ones, which turn all blocks the same colour. There’s a trick to using all these blocks correctly and this is the part where you will gradually master the skills necessary to grab those high scores. The current top score will be shown in the top right corner of the screen as a motivator and your score is shown in the top left.
The vents themselves also act as multipliers. They are different colours with pairs being opposite each other. Once you clear a vent you can tap on it to release the pressure and the coloured block it corresponds with will get excited and start vibrating. If you tap two vents of the same colour, a beam of energy passes between them and your score will increase if you remove blocks of the same colour. The vents don’t stay open for long so you need to keep an eye on the pressure gauge but you’ll want to hit them anyway to jack up your score.
Puzzle mode only has 15 levels but acts as a good training ground for the main game. Each one has a different layout of blocks. There’s no timer or pressure gauge but there is a predetermined high score to beat and a certain way to clear the blocks to beat it. This is an excellent brain teaser to get you thinking about the way you approach removing the blocks and will warm you up for the main game. It’s a pity there aren’t more of these.
On the face of it, Surge Deluxe doesn’t look like much. Its interface is actually quite basic and outdated and even the playing screens are quite mundane. It’s the brightly coloured blocks and the beams of energy, as well as congratulatory text that pops up when you do something good, that makes it stand out. It has a feel of Geometry Wars when things get chaotic and blocks and beams of light are buzzing all over the place. The different coloured blocks are all different shapes as well to make them colour blind friendly.
Sound effects are excellent with satisfying metallic clinks when you make a connection and a disappointing clang when it fails. There are little explosions when blocks disappear and a robotic voice even told me I was a Cyborg at one point, which thrilled me no end. In fact you may want to turn up the sound effects and mute the music, unless you happen to like bland forgettable techno thumping away in the background.
This is a game to grab five minutes with or an hour – you’ll definitely want to come back for more. It’s not as mindless as most match-3 puzzlers and definitely requires a bit more skill and savvy. If you’re in need of some brightly coloured fun and a break from a big AAA title, look no further.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Format: Vita Release: 04/02/14
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Surge Deluxe for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of a week on a PS Vita. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.