Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

April 24, 2005

Review: Lumines (PSP) - Saviour of a dying breed...

Not often do new puzzle games arrive that offer up a platter of good old fashion fun. Far too often the games are overly difficult, or just poorly designed, such that the game offers no challenge and ends up being on the uber side of boring. When I say Lumines, you won't care. Well, probably not anyway. Should you care? You better believe it. Lumines is a solid puzzler that flew under the radar at launch. The PSP's library is chalk full of sports, racing and adventure titles, but the main game that no one wanted to play was Lumines. I say you're a fool. A damn fool. Lumines is a wholely new and innovative experience, akin to the origins of Tetris, and does so by synthesizing music and a block building rhythm game.

Needless to say, when it comes down to having shock value for visuals, this game doesn't have it. It has a very simplistic interface, and nothing really stands out, other than that the screen and lightning fast sparkles are briskly crisp, chiming in with a few bleeps and bloops here and there. That's essentially all there is to say about the visual appeal of Lumines. It's there, but you have to walk into this game with an open mind. The atypical 50 bajillion polygons aren't going to pop up and suprise you, as Lumines tends to walk on the mild side. The meat of the game lies in the gameplay.

The objective of Lumines is to lay out bi-modal coloured blocks into a pattern that forms a 2 X 2 sqaure. Any dimension above 2 X 2 will warrant more blocks included in the quadrilateral concoction, but 2 X 2 is the minimum. Keep in mind that it isn't that simple. Planning a few moves in advance will warrant some bigger block deletions, by creating larger and larger squares, also rewarding you with more points. In the same manner as Tetris, the longer you play, the faster the blocks move, until you run out space to place blocks, and then it's game over. While it sounds deceivingly a lot like Tetris (I'm sure it borrows somethings from it), just the fundamental method of success is not similar in either game, so you're looking at two distinctly different pieces of meat (albeit both still just meat in the end).

The hitch is that while this is going on, a techno beat music mix is spinning in the background, and a tempo meter dancing across the top counts out the measure of the song in sections of 8 beats per round. It's your job to place blocks down to form squares or rectangles, so this meter can count the square and delete it once it completes one full cycle of beats. The neat thing is, that as you move, shift and contort you block into different congfigurations, synthetic noises will play to the beat of the song, creating a personalized riff exclusive to you and your play style. While it's entirely an aesthetic tack on, it makes Lumines that much more immersive. No other puzzle game pulls you in better than Lumines. The strategy in Lumines is stupendously deep too. Half cell deletions (only deleting half a sqaure) and block stacking are only the price of admission if you wish to unlock the latter stages in the game. Which leads me to the next feature of Lumines...game modes.

The standard one player mode is there, but it's quite different. You begin with a single song to play with, and as you delete more and more squares, aquire more points and ascend through the levels, a seemless transition from skin to skin, and song to song occurs, and you're now playing with a wholely new song, with a brand new beat, and new tunes. Not to mention, this skin (skin is a "level" in Lumines) is now playable in single play, which lets you play non-stop on a single skin with no change in music. The down side here is that if you fail in the run of the mill single player mode, you must begin from the very beginning, making unlocking all of the stages a mighty difficult challenge. Checkpoints, or "marker" skins would have been a nice additions, since making your way to the 6th skin only to have to restart from ground zero just to unlock a few more skins is aggrivating. All that aside, the game manages to remain addicting and compelling regardless of the amount of retries you must endure. Battle mode is an interesting edition as you face off against a computer (or wirelessly with a friend), and face-off in the battle to end all puzzle battlers. While Fatalities and finishing moves are absent, the battle remains one of the most challenging aspects of Lumines. Each round, the player with the most sqaure deletions gains an extra column to place blocks while the opposing player loses one. The victory is given to the person who manages to widdle the opponent down to only 2 columns making it impossible for him to keep playing. You also lose if you manage to run out of room to place blocks at any point during the match up.

The last mode is puzzle mode, which forces the player to create patterns or shapes in the blocks with single colours. While challenging at first, you can easily plan out the blocks required on paper in advance. While fun and exciting, it's only used a segue to opening more levels and skins. It's again, deviously addicting, but nothing more challenging than one player challenge mode.

All things said, there isn't a heck of a lot to say about Lumines without sounding like an FAQ. The game is fiendishly addicting. Keep in mind that only those with the patients to think moves through are going to make any headway in this game, yet it still keeps things fresh by constantly changing songs and offering new unlockable skins and music. The music synthesizer aspect, in conjuction with the innovative rhythmic block deletion method, makes Lumines one of (if not) THE best games available at PSP launch time. You won't be able to put it down, and it certainly keeps the mind entertained, and musically fulfilled. It's a meaty game that lacks any forgiveness, which will turn off some. Though hardcore gamers should have no problem chewing this one up and playing through all hours of the night.




Blogger anonymous said...

Meteos was better.

February 02, 2006 9:59 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home