Every Extend Extra's explosive brand of action gameplay may be worlds away from the puzzle panic of Lumines, but the pulsing music, vibrant graphics, and emphasis on managing an ever-changing tempo make it obvious that the same developer has touched both games.
Each of the nine main levels opens with your ship entering a strange world of whirling targets and churning alien vistas. Your goal is to watch the incoming vessels, and detonate yourself nearby at just the right moment, causing chain explosions that turn targets into volatile astral dominoes, racking up combo points for "extends" that keep your suicide mission primed with a stock of replacement ships. The longer you hold down the button, the bigger the initial blast radius. Small green enemies drop point bonuses, medium-sized mini-bosses spit out time extensions, and pulse bombs help extend combination strings.
Last, and far from least, pink enemies drop all-important "quickens" that speed up everything from your ship's maneuvering capability and the rate at which enemies appear to the tempo of the music. These suckers are the key to making it through the challenging boss battles that punctuate each level, and getting a full stock of eight can be one hell of a challenge.
See, after you've grabbed six of them, the ships that spill them stop appearing, encouraging you to maneuver around the power-ups until three are on-screen at once. It's a lot harder than it sounds, and making it from board to board is exceptionally challenging, even with five continues.
What's most memorable isn't shuffling about, or holding a shoulder button to leave your explosive core in a strategic spot, but the inventiveness of the graphics and sound effects. Every level's objects and explosion effects are part of a distinct theme, with grunt ships tumbling along in formation, inexplicably twisting mini-bosses, and bizarre end bosses that refuse to go down easy.
Every Extend Extra's main sequence of boards is challenging and fun, and perfectly suited to a quick game here and there when you find yourself in a queue or on a long ride. But you'll find yourself wishing there was a bit more meat. Though the back of the box boasts five game modes, two of them involve simply replaying the boards and bosses you've defeated. A version of the plainer, original Every Extend (a homebrew PC title) is a welcome bonus, and multiplayer is a short and sweet blast, but it would've been awfully nice if the developer had taken a cue from its own Lumines II and offered more than one main challenge course.
Though unequivocally fun, this release doesn't have Lumines' more cerebral underpinnings to fall back on, so the lack of truly differentiated game modes hurts its longevity - especially because most players will need considerable practice before getting more than a level or two in. On the other hand, if you couldn't get enough of classic, offbeat shooters like Ikaruga and Rez, add a point or two the score. Every Extend Extra is worthy of attention even if you don't have the dexterity of a street magician, just as long as you don't mind having to grind up your own personal skill level over time.