PQ2: Pratical Intelligence Quotient Review
Remember Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions? PQ is that game, without the bullets and landmines. Levels in the game are called "questions." To solve each question, players have to guide their on-screen "man" to the exit located on the other side of the three-dimensional wireframe maze. Each question is populated with doors, gaps, alarm beams, and pressure sensors, which the player has to activate and bypass using the various switches, blocks, weights, and tote-around staircases situated on the floor nearby. In order to get the most points, and, in so doing, earn a high PQ rating, you need to complete each question as quickly as possible while keeping the number of actions you perform to a minimum. As if the environmental similarities to Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions weren't obvious enough, some levels also feature security guards that you have to quickly sneak past when their backs are turned.
The boxy wireframe graphics and mellow trance tunes won't grab anyone's attention, but anybody that's into spatial or logic puzzles will probably find themselves hooked on PQ, at least while it lasts. Many of the puzzle designs are rather interesting, especially those that inspire "so that's how you do it" moments during play. Most only take about 30 seconds to solve, although a few are real brain-teasers. Of course, you have to be the type of person that enjoys re-situating blocks to fully appreciate what's going on. Controlling the game is easy, since only the directional buttons and the X-button are used during gameplay, and it's also extremely portable-friendly. Your score is recorded automatically after each puzzle, and you can quit and return to the current puzzle at anytime without penalty.
Due to some flaws evident in the game's graphical presentation, PQ's usefulness as a measure of intelligence is questionable. The initial peek players get of each maze isn't very helpful, due to the PSP's tiny screen and the single head-on view that the camera is locked into until the timer starts. Once turned loose, it's not all that tough to figure out what to move and where to go in order to get past the various conundrums resting between you and the goal. After all, the rectangle-heavy 3D graphics won't distract you with unnecessary detail, and you can rotate the camera with the shoulder triggers whenever you need to peer "around" something. But therein lies the rub--useful objects and dead ends are frequently obscured by the elevated wall sections placed right in front of them. Because of the short-sighted initial peek you get, you're bound to waste precious seconds either by encountering these gotchas or making cautious use of the shoulder triggers to see around things. That cuts into your PQ score, and it hardly seems fair considering players are being penalized for flaws in the game. Luckily, once you accept that PQ sucks as a tester of intelligence, you can settle in and just enjoy it for what it really is, a brainteaser.
The real knock against PQ is that there just isn't enough meat to it. There are 100 unique puzzles and two play modes. That's it. Initially, you have to go through all 100 levels in the PQ test mode. Afterwards, you can replay any of the puzzles you've already solved in the stage select mode. If you have your PSP setup to connect to the Internet from a WiFi access point, you can also upload and compare your scores and practical intelligence quotient against those of players from around the world. What you can't do is create your own puzzles and share them with others, which surely would have gone a long way toward extending the game's replay value.
Long story short, what we have here is an intellectually stimulating maze-based puzzle game that's good for one or two days of play before it ends up on the shelf.
1/27/2006 Frank Provo