FuturLab should by now be viewed as a definitive gaming national treasure; they’re championing the portable side of modern PlayStation gaming potential, crafting their own treasures for both Vita system and PlayStation Mobile which time and again tick the right boxes.
The small Hove-based studio – whose office resides a mere stone’s throw away from my home, I should note – sent over code this past week for their latest offering, Surge Deluxe, a substantial remake of the pintsize mobile game Surge. As long as King don’t produce another trademark-hoarding variation of Candy Crush, FuturLab can appropriately label their remake of Surge the deluxe edition.
This Vita update to the PlayStation Mobile puzzler packs an impressive roster of new features that go far to provide vital longevity to a game that would otherwise offer little to whet considerable gaming appetites.
Surge itself as a concept doesn’t stray far from the studio’s three-tier game development plan. The game is indeed cool, and you inevitably reach that point early on where you see the intuitive structure of the puzzle system laid bare; then you begin to play for real and understand how clever the inner workings beneath the simple surface actually are. Surge definitely didn’t disappoint, and Surge Deluxe goes further to ensure you remain impressed by the core concept.
The aim revolves around colour-connecting at a rapid rate, dragging your finger along the touchscreen to connect different colour blocks together. The longer the string of connections, the more points: the faster players earn even more. Certain blocks offer more points, while others offer chances to chain multiple colours or clear areas quicker. These blocks help provide the strategy, and it’s when you understand the strategy that you recognise the underlying intelligence coarsing through the gameplay.
FuturLab rightly claim Surge has ‘strategic depth’, and that comes from you having to connect blocks to unlock more blocks to connect, while monitoring a pressure gauge and countdown timer. The game’s key mode revolves at a base level around high scores, but those scores come from tactically sound snap decision-making.
Players from Deluxe have access to new blocks that combine and link other blocks to create massive combo scores, thus creating a new layer of competition for many still to this day playing for keeps on Surge. These new additions to the standard gameplay structure feel like they were meant to always be there, testament to FuturLab’s keen ambition to build upon success with ever more. New blocks are one of several new features, many heavily influenced by player feedback; some of the highest praise to offer FuturLab is that they listen and learn better than most.
The score system’s been redesigned as part of the redevelopment process to give the best players the chance to be better, and improving players more to aim for. Then there’s the inevitable trophy support, along with a brand new Puzzle mode, colour blindness support and a cracking new soundtrack from Killzone composer/Best Name Owner winner Joris de Man. All in all, a near overhaul to a good game to make it great.
These tweaks provide that extra longevity to a game that perhaps originally didn’t have much of a shelf life for those who weren’t too intent of matching and besting scores. Surge Deluxe becomes a game to jump back in to once out, one of those top-of-the-range train games that keep you on the carriage for a couple of stops too long.
I shouldn’t force myself to level any real criticism towards FuturLab here, since Surge Deluxe is a considerable improvement on a game that was already good. However, if I felt compelled to offer up any, I’d perhaps suggest that the base concept of Surge could benefit from further expansion to incorporate longer-lasting games, be it through providing a Bejeweled-like Endless mode or introducing larger game areas with more time and blocks available.
As you can see though, this is a clutch-at-straws attempt to find something wrong with a thoroughly enjoyable game not intending or needing to be anything more than a brief yet frequently brilliant distraction from daily duties.