IGN Review of PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient
Puzzle games come in all shapes and sizes. The first, and perhaps best example, would be titles that fall under the Tetris category. They look simple, maybe even primitive. But that doesn't change the fact they're deep and completely rewarding in their own way. These games include nothing but the puzzle itself, in all its evolving forms. Then there's the adventure-type puzzles, which help supplement an overarching narrative. Anything in the Myst series, including its spin-off series, Uru, falls under this label.
Both types don't make a point of testing your actual intelligence, though, or at least that's not the point of the game. The third type of puzzle game does just that. The first such game to hit the PSP, PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient, is described by developer Now Production as an "interactive measuring tool" for your practical intelligence. And what, precisely, is practical intelligence? It's an amalgamation of your skills in spatial reasoning, memory, predictive reasoning and lateral thinking. PQ takes these factors and calculates your practical intelligence quotient.
The game splits into ten stages, each of which contains ten puzzles. So, in effect, you get 100 puzzles to gauge your intelligence. You control a virtual man in each of these puzzle levels and the point is always the same: reach the exit. Of course, it's not an easy walk. You'll contend with various obstacles such as doors, stairways, lasers, conveyor belts and watchful sentries. And if that doesn't sound intimidating, just know that's not entirely the point. It's a test of your intelligence, remember, so your real enemy in PQ comes by way of your own mental deficiencies, whatever they may be.
As stated above, you need to navigate a field of obstacles to reach the exit in every level. The way PQ measures your "intelligence" is through three ominous counters on the left side of the screen. One, the time gauge, is constantly counting down, mocking your intelligence for every second you take. Another depicts the number of moves you have left before you fail the puzzle. Last is the bonus counter, which whittles down much like the time gauge, only many times faster, pressuring you to think fast to earn the highest score.
Thankfully, PQ boasts a variety of well-designed puzzles. They're engaging and challenging, without being so mind-devastatingly hard as to dissuade you from continuing. What makes playing the game tense, though, isn't so much the severity of the puzzles but the fact you know that you're being graded. It's like being back at school, only now your grades are public, thanks to PQ's online tracking system. The game lets you retry a puzzle as many times as you want before posting, sure, but it's easy to think your score will invariably pale in comparison to someone else's. Although right now, there aren't enough players to warrant extreme fear. Having said all of that, some of the puzzles do feel very difficult and more than a little obscure, so it's not all perfect. Luckily, you can skip levels whenever you want.
To ensure you don't look like a complete moron, the game does include a five-step tutorial that's thorough and very helpful. It'll instruct you in the ways of box lifting, laser dodging, sentry evasion, conveyer belt riding, door opening and just about every other skill needed to beat the game. It also teaches you how to perform complex actions like building staircases out of mismatched blocks, altering the direction of lasers and stopping conveyer belts by applying enough weight. Afterward, it's off to the cerebral races. The puzzles in the main game are the same as in the tutorial, only in different configurations and exponentially harder.
The only real "problem" with the game, is that you can try the same puzzle repeatedly. So, of course, scores become muddled when posting online. The only accurate gauge of intelligence, then, becomes what score you receive on the first try only. Imagine taking any important test over and over until you earned the score you wanted. That's basically what it amounts to in PQ.
Visually, the game looks like a cross between the sci-fi flick Lawnmower Man and the VR missions seen in the Metal Gear Sold series. It's simple yet decidedly cool aesthetic. It makes the game look like an intelligence test, if that makes anything sense, much in the same way that Lawnmower Man used similar visuals to depict virtual reality teaching tools. The game's sound is equally fitting. Nice tunes that won't interfere with your mental struggles.
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