Future Lab is a relatively new development company, but already they have a strong record in the realm of portable gaming. No matter what they produce it seems to raise the bar with regards to what we expect from our mobile devices. Our love for Velocity is well documented but since then the Brighton based studio has been developing a number of Playstation Mobile games, the latest of which is ‘SURGE’
SURGE is a puzzle game which utilises the touch screen. The aim is simply to connect blocks of the same colour to one another with an electrical current. Using your finger you need to drag from one block to the next to create as big a chain as possible. Like all good puzzle games the premise is simple but in practice it all becomes highly addictive.
The idea is to clear the screen before a pressure gauge explodes. In order to stop this happening you need to clear an entire horizontal row an open valves at both sides of the screen. This releases the pressure and adds a point bonus to the blocks of corresponding colour. On top of this ticking time bomb there is a normal time limit as well. When that expires more blocks fall into the screen. It starts out simply but by the end descends into panic stricken madness of the best kind.
Along with the standard coloured blocks are a number of special ones. These consist of things like bombs (which clear the screen of all blocks of that colour), wild card blocks (which can be used as any colour), and blocks which continually change. The best special block though is one which, for a short period of time, changes all the blocks to the same colour allowing you to rush for a quick clearance and chain bonus.
What really elevates the title is its presentation. The theme of electricity is constant through the design and the blocks glow with neon colour, the electrical lines drawn to connect them fizz satisfyingly and the sound track gives off an industrial electro vibe. This keeps the adrenaline pumping and the enjoyment high. When everything starts working together it creates a real state of flow that’s hard to match in many other puzzle games and gives a real gravity and impact to the game.
Adding to the competitive side of the title are online leader boards and in game trophies. When you start a new game the name of the person who has the score directly above you is plastered right in the middle of the screen for a few seconds. This adds to the ever growing reasons to keep coming back for just one more go.
There is one problem that could do with being addressed though. The game doesn’t contain any sort of colour blind filter or way of identifying blocks in any way other than the colour they are. This won’t be a problem for most of you but for some it means high scores will remain permanently out of reach. It only really comes into play with the yellow and green blocks - which are near indistinguishable to someone with partial colour-blindness. It isn’t enough to ruin the game but it does become incredibly annoying at higher levels when speed is everything. The addition of some kind of symbol for the colours would be most welcome if it could be implemented in the future.
Overall though, SURGE is another example of Future Lab making us expect more from our mobile games. This is a cut above almost all other mobile device games in terms of presentation and is another utterly essential game for those that want something they can play on the move. The studio seems to move effortlessly from strength to strength and we look forward to seeing what they come up with next.