At some point in your life, you've probably taken an I.Q. test. Maybe it was a series of simple questions and visual puzzles, or maybe it was in the back of a magazine. Either way, it probably wasn't anywhere near as fun as PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient.
PQ seems simple enough. With a visual style that apes Metal Gear Solid's VR missions (think 3-D grid environments), it stars a faceless, monochromatic little fellow with modest block-pushing-and-lifting skills who has to escape from a series of rooms. Standing in his way are a cavalcade of increasingly devious puzzles involving movable blocks, laser beams, conveyor belts and roving guards with flashlights.
The game boasts 100 of these puzzles, each requiring a unique strategy. In the first room, you'll start out just rearranging square blocks to form a staircase to the exit, but you'll soon find yourself navigating multi-tiered mazes and pushing walls around to block webs of lasers or guards with flashlights (come into contact with either, and you'll be forced to start the stage over). In later levels, you'll need to stack weights to open pressure-sensitive gates, use revolving doors that rotate the entire stage and memorize maps to pick your way through multi-room labyrinths.
Through it all, you'll battle a timer and a "move" limit that docks your score if you perform too many actions. Unlike most other games, your score in PQ actually means something. Designed as a test of your "practical intelligence," the game measures your demonstrated smarts with a score similar to an I.Q. And because an I.Q. test is pretty meaningless unless you can brag about it, PQ uses the PSP's built-in WiFi to rank you on a regionally sorted online leaderboard.
All this might seem a little dull, a perception that the stark graphics don't help much. But despite the minimalist look (which grows on you after a while), the sheer cleverness and variety of the puzzles makes this one of the most addictive original titles on the PSP.
There is, however, a dark side to all of this: Unless you're a genius, some of the levels are guaranteed to make you angry. For example, one particularly epic (and frustrating) stage near the end forces you to build a staircase by fitting together irregular blocks, build another staircase going down and then dodge a flashlight guard while carrying weights from the beginning of the stage to a pressure-sensitive door near the exit. This level is emblematic of PQ's chief flaw: While it's addictive as hell, it takes a long time to muddle your way through some of these puzzles, and undoing 10 minutes of work by accidentally stepping in front of a guard or a laser is the sort of thing that induces psychotic rage.
Checkpoints would solve this, although that would probably be cheating. Interestingly enough, though, cheating is easy: once you've run down the timer and your moves trying to trial-and-error your way through a level, simply quit the game and restart the level. Provided you don't make any more mistakes, you're brilliant (at least as far as your score is concerned).
In spite of its flaws, PQ is an extremely addictive, innovative title that gives PSP-owning puzzle fans a welcome break from falling-block games. The relatively short levels make this a perfect pick-up-and-play game, and provided you do well (or cheat), the score at the end makes for a nice ego boost. If you're prone to snapping controllers in half, though, you might want to avoid this one; PSPs are expensive to replace.