Puzzle games can be a bit of a tough genre to break new ground in. Most people will say that Tetris, having stolen the limelight for so many years, is the best puzzle game. While its gameplay has certainly remained the most accessible to so many players for years, it lacks an aesthetic that is equally appealing. Enter Lumines, the stylish puzzler brought to us by Q Entertainment as part of the original PSP launch titles. A new take on the stacking-blocks-to-make-them-disappear concept, Lumines was an interesting blend of colors and sounds that quickly became the standout puzzle game for the new handheld.
The general concept of the game is simple and addicting. Set to an outstanding soundtrack, Lumines is a game consisting of squares containing four boxes using a binary color scheme. These shapes are arranged into groups of four or more of the same color boxes touching before being cleared away by a filtering ‘line’ reminiscent of the needle on a record player moving with the beat of the music. In the primary mode, Voyage, combining boxes will cause the score to multiply until eventually the level is cleared. Clearing a level transitions everything into a new song with new colors and a theme all its own.
Utilizing the Vita’s touch screen, players can use the display to directly manipulate blocks or use the classic d-pad control scheme. Making its return is the connecting block which ensnares all the squares of the particular color and clears them regardless. New to the series is a scramble block, mixing up all the colors of all the blocks that are directly touching it. This has potential to be a godsend or cause early onset balding due to frustration (depending on how carefully you have arranged your stacks). The game is lost when the boxes touch the top and cannot be dropped into play, allowing players to either submit their score to unlock avatars and skins or forfeiting the score to start fresh. Each level, or “skin”, is unlocked as it’s started for the first time so it’s very helpful to not have to go all the way to the beginning by wiping the score clean. Unlocked skins can be played in free mode or even ordered into playlists of favorites.
Psychedelic sights and sounds wait from the first time you press start. Lumines is known to be a very stimulating game where watching being almost as addicting as playing. Colors pop with the Vita’s OLED screen and in a departure from previous games Electronic Symphony uses 3D as opposed to 2D shapes. The artistic theme of each skin is stunning as the background comes alive with unique animations from city skylines to Halloween to simple crayon-like drawings. The deep and lively soundtrack doesn’t so much provide ambiance as pull each skin together, connecting the gameplay with the artistic direction.
Packed with all sorts of extra goodies, Electronic Symphony features a multitude of modes from Master; providing a challenge of lines to clear in a set amount of time, to World Block; which subtracts any blocks you cleared from one massive cube that players from around the world contribute to clear every day. There’s even a duel mode available only through local play. This makes it somewhat redundant feature if there’s no one playing nearby. Also new to the series is the avatar abilities; previously meaningless, albeit stylish icons now possess strategic value for both single player and duel mode. From shuffling the opponent’s squares to summoning three solid color blocks or even slowing the pace of the line, it’s interesting there is now meaning to the little face in the corner of the screen.
Bottom line? This is a define title to have if you own a Vita. Honestly, even if you aren’t a big puzzle fan you’ll have hours of enjoyment unlocking new skins and avatars, making playlists and playing online (provided you can find someone to play in the ad hoc mode).
Note: The Lumines: Electronic Symphony review was written based on the Vita version of the game.