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PSP Review - 'Lumines'

by John Curtis on April 11, 2005 @ 12:42 a.m. PDT

Lumines brings a unique puzzle experience to PSP owners, offering gameplay reminiscent of Tetris while including new innovations and enhancements in technology that fuse music, puzzles and luminescence.

Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Q Entertainment
Release Date: March 22, 2005


What is small, black, easy to hide in your pocket, and helps to pass time at work? Easy, a Playstation Portable and a copy of Lumines! Developed by Q Entertainment and originally published by Bandai in Japan, Lumines made its way stateside, thanks to Ubisoft. This title offers addictive and simplistic gameplay, beautiful graphics, a hip-hoppin' soundtrack, and several different modes of play. With the massive amounts of launch titles for the PSP in the US, this game will most likely get overlooked by many people, but this game is by far one of the most fun games I have played all year. Move over Tetris, there's a new kid in town, and Lumines looks like it's here to stay.

Lumines is a pretty straightforward puzzle game that is very easy to learn how to play. Basically it's a block-dropping game where the object is to make squares or rectangles (solid blocks) out of four or more pieces that match in color. Square blocks comprised of four smaller pieces, which can be any combination of two different colors, drop from the top of your screen. You must arrange the blocks by rotating and shifting them to the bottom of your screen to make solid blocks of four or more of the same colored pieces. When a solid block is created, it will light up and remain on the screen until the "Music Bar" passes over it. The music bar is the line used to clear solid blocks that sweeps across the screen to the beat of the music. Before the music bar clears a solid block, it is possible to add to that block with two or more matching pieces, creating a link and yielding some extra bonus points. When a block is stacked on top of another, and only one side is touching the block below, the other side will break apart and fall down so there is never a hole in the playable area, which certainly helps when you are working on combos and links. The game ends when you can no longer place a new block on the screen without it extending out of the top of the playable area, or if time runs out.

The creators of Lumines have added some neat features into the elements of gameplay, one of which is the "Magic" piece. Just like most puzzle games, Lumines offers a special piece that appears from time to time throughout the game. This piece, called the "over block," is a radiantly colored gem that makes up one of the four corners of the dropping blocks. When you make a solid block that includes the over block, all blocks of the same color touching a corresponding side of the original block will also disappear. This helps players with clearing the playable area and also helps in creating massive combos and links. If you can manage to use one of these over blocks to clear the whole screen of one color, you achieve a Unicolor Bonus, worth one thousand points.

Another fabulous addition to Lumines is the Music Bar, the line that sweeps across the screen to the beat of the music. A slow-moving music bar means that you will have tons of time to add to the solid blocks – and your score – by creating one huge shape. A fast-moving music bar means that you will have to plan ahead by using the three preview blocks, located on the left side of the screen, if you want to create anything more than a solid 4x4 block.

There are several modes of play in Lumines: challenge, skin, time attack, puzzle, vs. computer, and vs. 2nd player. Each mode is equally addictive and offers its own set of unlockable game features like extra skins (backgrounds), new music tracks, and new avatars. In challenge mode, the object is to try to earn points and progress through 24 levels by making solid blocks, chains, and links. As you progress through each level, the blocks change in color, as do the skin and music. Skin mode is basically a customizable challenge mode, but instead of the skin and music tracks changing according to the level you are on, the skin and track will only change when you tell it to. In time attack mode, the objective is to accumulate the highest possible score within one of four available times, which are: one, three, five, and 10 minutes. In puzzle mode, the objective is to make shapes or patterns out of the dropping blocks according to what the game tells you to make.

Versus computer battle mode is comprised of you versus a computer opponent in a vertical split-screen block, to see who can get the most cleared blocks, biggest combos, and longest links. Every good move you make causes the opponent's screen to become slightly smaller in width while causing yours to expand, thus giving you a major advantage. The game ends when either player's blocks extend out of the playable area. Versus 2P battle mode is exactly the same, except you play wirelessly against another opponent to see whose block-making skills are the best. The neat thing about playing versus 2P is that your win-loss record is saved so you can keep track of it. The game also allows you to create yourself from several animated avatars, including some hard-to-unlock ones.

Overall, I found Lumines to be a very good game that I know I will spend hundreds of gaming hours mastering. Whether you are an experienced gaming veteran or just a casual player, you will surely enjoy this title and all it has to offer. It's more than just a puzzle game, and in fact, with the animated skins and the mesmerizing beats, you will find yourself in a somewhat Zen-like environment.


Score: 9.0/10

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