French games have a reputation for weirdness, but now they have upped the strangeness to ridiculous heights. Never in the field of Amiga gaming have so many been so whacked out by so few. Extase is king of the odd people, but as with most eccentrics it exudes an undefinable charm.
Extase is a deactivated android that has been discovered in an alien system. To reactivate the droid various mental conditios must be repaired individually, starting with her Dream State. Each is revived by rebuilding a circuit before the other player.
Floating above the circuit as a bubble you dive in and hit the wire when the mouse button is clicked. To bring the circuits to life, a number of tasks must be performed simultaneously. The wires must be recharged so energy pulses can travel to the brain and switches must be turned to ensure they go the right way. Transistors have to be created (by diverting energy pulses through a generator) to bridge gaps in the wires and then lifted into position.
If you have picked up a newly created transistor and flown down to plug a gap, the second you touch a cable a spark appears. No ordinary spark, this one hunts down transistor and burns them out. Sparks, unfortunately, can also be caused by touching down on a spark generator. It is pretty daft to set these little geeks loose on your own wires but if the other guy is ahead then, well, that is another story.
Extase forces players to behave with complete selfishness. Opponents who are getting too far ahead can be stopped in four ways. Transistors can be blagged from the enemy's wires, switches can be set the wrong way, sparks can be sent out to wreak havoc and best of all the other bubble can be muscled out of the way.
Timing is the essence of Extase, using the game-winning pulses to create components at the right rate, fending off the sparks, activating switches at vital moments and sabotaging circuits, all of which come together in one frenzied game. Extase is viciously competitive, mind-numbingly hectic and therefore it is a sheer joy to play.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Play Extase and your ears wil love you for ever. Starting with an ethereal Arabic yodel, you are lured into a false serenity. When the game begins there is a strange silence with only your actions causing an ccasional violin riff. The music slowly builds into a crescendo that matches hectic moves you are forced to make for victory. Each level has a totally different tune that echoes the theme of that stage and even the spot effects blend brilliantly.
The huge head that dominates each level is striking and immediate. As each reactivation nears fruition the face animates, again in keeping with the level's theme. Madness sees the lady roll her eyes and loll her green tongue. Vision control sees her brows crease with her eyes rolling uncontrollably. The wires and the circuits themselves are standard fare, just so many lines, but they off set the stark head perfectly. The graphical simplicity of the game counterpoints the music to create a feeling of alien, yet non-hostile, worlds.
Extase is at its best against the computer. You can be as evil as you wish, and, depending on the level, all it tries to do is mirror your steps. Playing against a friend invokes too much malice. The three levels of difficulty do not alter the circuits - they could be no harder - but the opponent's more aggressive and the number of the destructive sparks increases, causing even more brainache.
Each level gets more complex, requiring greater trickery to complete. There is massive scope for skill development and the increasing lunacy of circuit design makes each level a personal affront. Extase's addictiveness is staggering, but its simple concept calls staying power into question. It is not exactly the sort of thing you dig out after a hard day at the office - unless it is to soak up the soundtrack.
Extase is a musical masterpiece and a graphic extravaganza. There are too many massively wild elements for it to be ignored, and many will fall for its charms. It will leave some gamers cold, though: it is just to outrageously strange. Diametrically opposed to the big licences, Extase will be enjoyed by those who relish original puzzles, mental multitasking and tests of mouse dexterity. Extase is a game only for the brave, but to them will give the curious spoils of the most original product this year.