I'm always a little wary about games that test your intelligence; the last thing I need is some video game telling me that I'm stupid. That's not to say that I think I'm a brain dead fool, but I would rather meet and get to know the person that is going to judge my intelligence rather than have some number thrown in my face by a computer program.
I went into PQ2: Practical Intelligence Quotient with this trepidation, I worried that this little puzzle game was going to conclude that I'm a hopeless moron that has no chance of ever being considered smart. I worried that PQ2 was going to recommend I throw away all of my favorite action games and devote my life to the Brain Game titles on the Nintendo DS. Thankfully PQ2 was kind to me, and in turn I feel an obligation to give this brand new PSP game a fair shake.
PQ2 is the sequel to PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient, a PSP puzzle game released early last year. This brain buster is based on testing the model of human intelligence developed by Dr. Masuo Koyasu at the Kyoto University. But don't worry; the game isn't nearly as daunting as that description makes it sound. In fact, once you've learned the basics of PQ2 you'll be speeding through the levels and giving your brain a real work out.
All of the puzzles in PQ2 take place on a platform that appears to be floating in the middle of space. There aren't a lot of fancy backgrounds or complex graphic designs, instead PQ2 trades in a flashy presentation for a set of puzzles that will really put your mind to the test. The game's simple look is actually part of PQ2's charm; it looks more like a VR training mission than an actual puzzle game. But it's definitely a game, and an incredibly fun one at that.
Each of the levels have essentially the same goal, it's your job to take your virtual character (who is a simple silhouette of a person drenched in white) from the starting point to the level's exit (which is indicated by a large pillar of light). Of course doing this is easier said than done. Each level will feature a different set of challenges to overcome, including other characters (detectives) you need to avoid, glass blocks you will have to break (or not break), lasers you need to block, boxes you need to move and switches that need to be triggered. In order to add a little pressure to the situation, PQ2 also tracks how long it takes you to complete a task and how many moves you use. Once you've completed the level the computer will look at what you did in the level and grade you, giving you a score that will eventually be averaged out amongst all of the levels you complete.
While the game itself is not especially complex, PQ2 does require you to pay attention to the various training levels. The game may have a simple concept, but there are a lot of small things you need to learn about the different objects, characters and puzzle types. Thankfully the training doesn't last too long and you won't have to complete all of those levels in order to start on your puzzle solving adventure. But make no mistake about it; PQ2 is one of those games where it's almost essential that you learn the rules. The last thing you want to do is spend time (and moves) learning what does what, that's a good recipe for getting a low score and having the computer label you a dummy.
The game is split up into a number of different modes that will easily fit into your schedule (no matter how calm or hectic). Most people will probably be interested in the main grouping of levels, known as the 100-Puzzle Test. As the name implies, the 100-Puzzle Test has one hundred puzzles that you need to solve all in a five hour time period. Don't worry, you don't have to spend all five hours in one sitting, you can save your progress at any point and come back later. Perform this task and you'll be rewarded with your PQ score, which tells you what your practical intelligence quotient is.
If you don't have time to solve 100 different puzzles, you can also take the Quick Test, which throws five random puzzles at your and gives you a ten minute time limit to finish it. Another mode gives you the option of a Theme Test, which takes similar tests and bunches them up together for you. These different modes offer you a variety of ways to play PQ2, so no matter if you have a lot of time to waste or just a few minutes, this puzzler can fit into your schedule.
One of the coolest new aspects of this sequel is the weekly downloadable test. Every week you can take your PSP online (using a wireless router) and download a fresh batch of levels, which is perfect for those gamers who run right through the 100-Puzzle Test. And if that's not enough, you are also able to download user created levels, a mode that gives you an almost unlimited amount of puzzles to solve. PQ2 also comes with a rather interesting level creator that allows you to share your various levels over the Sony network. Needless to say, if you're one of those people who get addicted to solving these kinds of puzzles then there's quite a bit of content already available to keep this title fresh.
When you look at the game it's clear that all of the attention went into making the puzzles fun (and hard) rather than the game's cosmetics. The graphics are as simple as you can get, only one or two notches up from stick figures. But it's clear that this game is not about visuals, it's about testing (and ultimately improving) your practical intelligence. Whether or not the test is 100% accurate and you will actually learn something from the game is yet to be determined, but at least the puzzles are entertaining and it's a great way to spend a few days, hours, or even minutes.
Like the graphics, PQ2's gameplay is also simple. You use your D-Pad to move your virtual character around the screen, and the analog stick (along with the two shoulder buttons) to rotate the camera. You don't have a jump button, pushing blocks around is a breeze, and the gameplay never feels needlessly complicated or cluttered. The only issue I had was that for some odd reason the pause button is mapped to the triangle button. It's not that big of a deal, but there were more than a few times when I accidentally pushed the Start button instead of pausing the game.
When it comes right down to it PQ2 only has one real problem: It came out after Crush. As much as I hate the idea of comparing these two puzzle games, there's just no way I can write this review without talking about Sega's seminal puzzler. While they aren't exactly the same game, Crush and PQ2 do have a lot in common. I ultimately had more fun with Crush, but at the same time liked the never ending supply of cool puzzles to solve in PQ2. But alas, because these two games came out so close together it's hard to justify buying both games around the same time. But don't worry Crush fans, PQ2 will be here waiting for you when you've grown tired of those 40 levels.
PQ2 manages to take the best elements from the original game and give us a lot more content, a lot more obstacles, and a lot more freedom. The game is still not perfect, but if you're the type of person who likes to keep your brain working then this is about the best "brain game" you're going to get on the PSP. With so many levels on the disc and ready to download, PQ2 feels like a bargain at $30. The simple graphics may turn some gamers off and the puzzles aren't for everybody, but this is one title that deserves to find a broader audience. You might be surprised how much fun this game is, and best of all, it won't make you feel stupid.