PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient Hands-On

GameSpot's cerebral cortex gets a workout as we get hands-on with Nowproduction's challenging PSP puzzle game.

Released in Japan last year as Intelligent License, the memorably titled PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient is a puzzle game that tests your smarts through a series of 100 "questions." Each question takes the form of a 3-dimensional level that you need to navigate your way through by manipulating various objects and, in some cases, avoiding patrolling guardsmen. We recently had an opportunity to play through the first 30 or so of PQ's 100 questions, and can report that its somewhat simplistic visuals belie a game that promises to be every bit as challenging as its title suggests.

Before attempting any of the puzzles proper, we played through PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient's five tutorials, which walk you through relatively easy levels and do a great job of familiarizing you with the game's controls along the way. Besides moving your white-silhouetted character around each level using the D pad, the only controls you'll need to concern yourself with are using the shoulder buttons to move the camera around when necessary, and using the X button to perform context-sensitive actions such as pick up, drop, grab, push, pull, open, and look.

Many of the puzzles in PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient involve moving blocks around to create flights of stairs or to bridge gaps and such, and although the game starts out pretty simple, it doesn't take long for the difficulty to ramp up. Blocks of different shapes and sizes start coming into play, along with conveyor belts, escalators, revolving doors, switches, lasers, weight blocks, scales, guardsmen, and areas where you're completely dependent on memory because your view of a particular area is deliberately obscured.

Your invariable goal in PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient is to get from the start of each level to a brightly lit exit doorway. All of the levels are played against a strict time limit, and you'll be awarded a score of 0 for the level if you take too long to beat it. Your score, which is based both on your time and on how many times you use the X button, will also suffer if you hit the "retry" button at any point, which will sometimes be your only option after making an incorrect move. There are certainly multiple solutions to some of the puzzles in the game, but there are also plenty of ways that you can irreparably mess them up.

Some of the game's puzzles will demand less-than-conventional solutions.

The majority of the levels we've played through thus far have been quite fiendishly designed and use the game's limited number of different objects in some interesting ways. Putting two or more blocks onto an escalator, for example, will stop the escalator moving, and one puzzle required us to build a staircase by sending irregularly shaped blocks along a conveyor belt in the right order.

If we had to criticize anything about PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient at this point, it would be that the default camera position sometimes makes it difficult to get a good feel for your surroundings, and that rotating the camera with the shoulder buttons doesn't always help an awful lot. With that said, a small top-down view of your immediate surroundings is available in a corner of the screen at all times, and many of the larger, multiroom levels actually have maps in them that you can walk up to, look at, and hopefully memorize to some extent before proceeding.

PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient is scheduled for release this month, so expect a full review in the not-too-distant future.

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