FuturLab are best known for the rather exceptional shooter Velocity (originally made for mobile operating systems and later ported to Vita as Velocity Ultra), which combined frenetic shooting with an assortment of game-changing mechanics like teleportation. Their PlayStation Mobile puzzle game, Surge, was just as well-received as Velocity, though less prolific due its more casual nature. However, as with Velocity Ultra, FuturLab took Surge back to the drawing board and, after listening to feedback from the fans and their community at large, re-developed it for the Vita. The result is Surge Deluxe, an incredibly addictive Match-3-style puzzle game with a host of deceptively simple mechanics.
The idea behind Surge Deluxe is to stop a nondescript machine from overloading. Coloured blocks of various shapes appear to block a stack of pressure vents on either side of the screen, and you must connect matching colours to remove them and clear the vents. You do this by drawing a line between them with your fingertip, looping over, under and between existing blocks in any way necessary. In the original incarnation of Surge, this was as deep as it really got, but FuturLab have added a bunch of new block types to mix things up and maximise the scoring potential.
For example, rather than just linking all the purple blocks to remove them, you can now thread your finger through a chain block, which allows you to continue looping blocks of a second colour into the same group. Bombs detonate all the other blocks of the colour they’re linked to; colour-changers force you to think fast as they constantly cycle through all the colours available; and rainbow blocks change every block on screen to the same colour for a limited time, allowing the quick-fingered to hammer out massive scores when used in conjunction with score multiplier blocks. At first it seems daunting as the first few levels fire the new blocks at you in quick succession, but once you’ve cleared Level 30 a few times and are looking to hit scores around the 2,000,000+ mark, it falls into place and you start looking at the screen in a different way.
Surge is a game about quick decisions. On either side of the screen the pressure is always rising, while at the bottom a timer is always counting down. If you hit max pressure for more than a few seconds it’s game over, so you need to clear vents and then tap them in order to release pressure. Your first few seconds should always be used to try and clear a few vents – though the super-fast and well-tried among you will likely develop strategies that throw caution to the wind for the sake of squeezing every single point out of every single move. If you hesitate too much, you’ll more than likely lose, but brash decisions or panicking will see your high score suffer and, like all good puzzle games, that high score is king. Understanding the function of each and every block and how best to combine them is the key to hitting the big time.
Visually, Surge Deluxe is absolutely gorgeous. Simple aesthetics mean the onus is on bright, vivid colours displayed against dark backgrounds to really make the action pop. The shapes of the blocks now vary, meaning that even the colour blind can learn to differentiate between colours and compete against those with perfect vision. The music is passable, but can begin to grind after a while. It’s the usual techno-junk that usually accompanies such games – great for getting the blood pumping as you play but nothing to write home about.
If there’s a complaint to level at Surge Deluxe it’s that there’s not quite enough variety. If you become hooked on the game as-is then that’s good for you, but it only comes with one mode and a selection of puzzle screens where you must clear the vents as quickly as possible in a certain way. It’s not particularly deep or involved, and the main mode is far more interesting.
VERDICT: Surge Deluxe is a great example of the Match-3 genre. Bright and beautiful, frenetic and challenging – it’s a wonderful puzzle game that works brilliantly on the PS Vita. There’s not a lot of content, though, and once you get bored of trying to climb the leaderboards you’re unlikely to go back for a blast of the puzzle mode more than once or twice. That said, it is what it is, and most people won’t come to it hoping for a smorgasbord of game modes. If your fingers are fast enough, Surge Deluxe is a great time-killer.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.