Lumines ReviewCain Dornan
The puzzle genre has always had a relatively limited number of fans. Its one of those genres that you either love or completely hate. Personally, I was on the hating side. My limited patience resulted in many puzzle games that I have experienced in the past being thrown aside shortly after I started playing them. The countless hours of brain-racking puzzles simply doesnt catch my interest, with the incredible simplicity of many other puzzle games often driving me to tears. From my understanding, many gamers have a similar reaction to puzzle games, leading to a large majority of puzzle titles failing to reach the top of the sales charts. You could imagine my surprise when I saw Lumines in the top 10 for countless weeks after release.
While Lumines has been available throughout the US and Japanese territories for quite some time, most PAL gamers have only recently been offered the opportunity to experience the highly praised puzzler that is Lumines. With the flurry of Playstation Portable titles that have passed through our hands following the recent release of the PSP in Australia, Lumines is one of the last launch titles currently sitting on my desk awaiting review. Due to my little interest in the puzzle genre, my anticipation for reviewing a title that is remarkably similar to a game I once greatly despised (Tetris, that is), I had been avoiding touching the game for worry of my biased preferences coming into play, potentially resulting in a low score for a game that is likely superb.
Upon booting up the game, I was somewhat surprised to view the games refreshing retro style presentation. The menus are immediately noticeable as not being the flashy type that many games now present us with. Rather, the menu layout is impressively simplistic, reeking in 1980s style. The music also adds to the old school ambience, which is pleasantly carried through to the games gameplay, offering catchy tunes that somehow remind me of countless SNES classics that first got me addicted to video games. Since the game is essentially based on a classic title that was released many years ago, it feels perfectly natural and suiting to the games heritage. This is not to say that Lumines doesnt introduce anything new, however, as puzzle fanatics will be easily satisfied with what developer Q! Entertainment has managed to incorporate into the game.
Lumines involves guiding 2x2 randomly coloured blocks to form a series of colourful combinations at the bottom of the screen. The focus of the game is to join-up the different coloured blocks to make them disappear from the screen. The ultimate aim is to clear as many of the incoming blocks as possible, both to earn higher points and to prevent the screen filling up with blocks. A range of special blocks, namely those that contain a diamond in the center of it, offers the ability to remove all blocks of the same colour that are connected to it, allowing for some impressively tactical maneuvers that cause half of the blocks on the screen to be removed in a single move. Allowing the blocks to pile until they touch the top of the screen will result in game over. While this sounds somewhat easy on paper, playing the actual game can often be a completely different story. A small number of simple mistakes can spell disaster when the incoming blocks fail to correspond with those already stacked, eventually causing high piles that are virtually impossible to remove. Add to this the overall speed of the game, which increases as time passes in some modes, and Lumines turns out to be both a difficult yet thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Lumines offers a small collection of modes that vary slightly in execution. The single player Challenge Mode allows you to compete in a never-ending game that rewards you with new skins and music based on your performance. Skins are essentially new backgrounds during gameplay, which surprisingly alters the experience and adds a refreshing atmosphere when they are changed as you play. There is also the Time Attack mode, which allows you to select from a list of different intervals, including 60 seconds, 180 seconds, 300 seconds and 600 seconds, to try and score as many line-up of blocks as possible.
The more interesting and challenging mode is the Player Vs CPU mode, which allows you to go head-to-head against talented AI-controlled characters in an attempt to beat your opponent ensuring that your opponent fills they game area before you do. A range of different special effects, such as one that makes your playing area rapidly smaller while your opponents grows larger, aids in creating a somewhat different experience than what is found in the Challenge Mode. Another interesting mode is the challenge mode, which requires you to create a range of different patterns that are indicated in the background of the playing area.
While the visuals are far from outstanding, they do offer a varying range of sceneries that keep true to the games classic heritage. The most impressive aspect of Lumines presentation is easily the games music, which offers a large range of different, catchy music that simply fits perfectly with the gameplay. It has been quite some time since we last experienced a game in which the music moulds into the gameplay so well.
The puzzle genre was once a key genre for video games, spawning quite a large number of quality titles in the classic days of the early game systems. With each passing generation of systems, however, the puzzle genre has been on a decline, with most titles failing to introduce anything impressively new that manage to capture and hold gamers attention for extensive periods of time. Fortunately, Lumines is unlike the recent trend of puzzle games, as it provides a refreshing, enjoyable and most importantly addictive experience that will certainly satisfy any puzzle fan and grab the attention those who usually dont enjoy the puzzling genre. Lumines is easily the best puzzle game currently available on the PSP, being a worthy addition to almost any gamers collection.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.