mind your Ps and Qs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 July, 2007, 12:00am

More mind-bending puzzles are in store for PlayStation Portable gamers with PQ2: Practical Intelligence Quotient 2. This is the latest 3D puzzle game from Japanese developer Now Production and is published by D3, which released PQ1 in the international market in January last year.

The minimalist, albeit stylish, game environment found in both PQ1 and PQ2 looks like a cross between those featured in the science-fiction films Cube (1997) and Tron (1982). PQ2 is basically a collection of 3D logic-based puzzles tackled inside a black space, in which a grid-like platform of Day-Glo square blocks seems to float. A player controls a white avatar, which is initially teleported to a puzzle room. There, you must guide it from a starting point to the exit, marked by a beam of light.

There are different levels to play and challenges to overcome. Some tasks can be as simple as getting the avatar across a room in the least possible moves. Others are more complex: navigating around obstacles; avoiding guards and laser beams; and arranging blocks to make a flight of stairs.

Like its earlier incarnation, PQ2 purports to measure a player's practical intelligence based on the scores obtained from completing a 100-puzzle test. Each score is based on several variables, including how long it took to solve each puzzle. In the PQ1 manual, the game's creators credited Masuo Koyasu, a professor of psychology at Kyoto University, for his research on PQ. He also verified the accuracy of the game's scoring system. But don't put too much stock in that - there is no recognised scientific body that supports the PQ games as a valid measure of intelligence to rival standardised IQ tests. The PQ games are 3D puzzlers - that's all. However, if my girlfriend or mother is around, I shall say these games are academically proven intelligence tests that must be taken seriously.

So what's new in PQ2? There are Doctor Who-inspired police boxes that virtual cops on patrol enter and exit. There are also portable lifts, which extend when activated to help you cross spaces. Also, the background music has been changed to a less-distracting, fairly innocuous synthesiser soundtrack.

After each level you're now given a score for a completed puzzle, which helps track a player's progress. A player can upload scores to an online leaderboard, where weekly puzzles can be downloaded. The site also allows players to swap custom-made puzzles based on the game's built-in level editor.

But the game's major improvement is in its camera controls, which enable players to see the avatar's environment more effectively. In the previous edition there were only four camera angles, which left blind spots.

PQ1 was a solid puzzle game but PQ2 is much more fun to play because earlier flaws have been rectified and new game elements added.

Pros: New game elements and downloadable content.

Cons: No improvement in the graphics.