If there's one genre every system could use, it's an addictive
action / puzzle game. From Tetris to Super Puzzle Fighter,
Bust a Move to Devil Dice, these titles have long proven
to be sleeper hits. For many, especially the non-violence
crowd, they could even be considered system sellers. Thankfully,
the PSP has Lumines right off the bat. Developed by Q Entertainment,
founded by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Lumines has a brilliant pedigree
behind it. Mr. Mizuguchi is behind such cult hit titles as
Rez, Space Channel 5, and even Sega Rally.
The basic premise Lumines is to take two colors of 4x4 blocks,
and rearrange them as they fall into solid colored squares
in tune with the beat, in the form of a solid clearing tempo
bar that slides across the screen. This, by itself, doesn't
sound like much. It's when you combine the amazing stage
skins and music that Lumines comes alive. Each stage skin
has a look completely of its own, from the backgrounds to
the blocks, and the rich, often vocal music. Everything suddenly
shifts between stages with no break in between. Much like
Rez, each keypress, movement, and action cues rhythmic sounds
and effects to put you in the game.
Where things really get interesting is for the advanced
players. Lumines is made to be a chemistry of game and presentation,
not so hard that it takes your attention away from the experience.
So, one would assume Lumines is mainly a game for puzzle
beginners. While any beginner could pick up and play Lumines,
the game offers a huge amount of extras for the hardcore
puzzle fans. Combos can easily be strung together into huge
amounts, score bonuses reward good combing, and the game's
one power block is a very advance tool. The special block
in the game will erase all blocks of the same color connected
to it. If a player ever clears all blocks of one color, you're
rewarded with another 10,000 point bonus.
The challenge mode as I said gives
you no breaks… one
level streams right into the next. Every 4 levels get you
a new skin, and to 'finish' the challenge mode you'll have
to play through a whopping 100 levels, nonstop. This can
take upwards of an hour or more of play. To unlock the games
hidden stage with the vocal Lights, you must score a whopping
999,999 points. No small feat in any way, it can take upwards
of just over two hours of solid play, and will take far longer
to get anywhere near good enough to survive it. Several other
unlockable skins are hidden in all the other modes, including
Puzzle, VS CPU, and each of the time attacks.
Lumines takes full advantage of the PSP's amazing screen
with incredible backgrounds that are full of movement and
life. Lasers fly around, meteors swirl overhead, stylish
text flashes over the background, visualizations of the sound
levels flash over the grids, colorful people dance in the
background, and the entire stage just feels more alive than
any puzzle game I've ever played. You won't be ignoring all
this beautiful art in order to play, as everything is purposefully
tuned for a perfect balance between the experience and the
game itself. The art and music will almost forcibly grab
your attention at times, and it's all as much a part of the
gameplay as anything else.
The music plays a very important role in Lumines. The song
controls the tempo of the level, the style of the stage,
and generally is the hook that will keep you playing over
and over. The tunes may not be for everyone, but unless you'd
rather have a heavy rock dropped on your foot than listen
to J-Pop, you'll probably find yourself hooked on the upbeat
tunes and rhythms. Dance Dance Revolution shows that American
audiences are actually quite receptive to this kind of music.
I'm personally a big J-Pop fan, it's what I listen to on
a daily basis, and I greatly enjoy the soundtrack of Lumines.
The soundtrack is as best as I can figure unchanged from
the Japanese version. Most of the songs are in English, but
I believe the hidden version of Lights is indeed in Japanese.
Now I have just a few minor complaints to get out of the
way before we wrap things up. Puzzle mode is a great throw-in
for some brain twisters, but the instructions are just plain
horrid. You'll likely have no idea what to do, how to win,
and probably continue as such until someone shows you a solution
to at least one puzzle. A simple demo could have cleared
up all confusion. Documentation in general is quite lacking,
nowhere that I can find does the included help tell you how
exactly you advance a skin, a level, or anything. I know
that every 4 levels is a new skin, but I'm still not sure
on how many deletions it takes to bring about a new level.
I myself counted 22 at one point, but I've seen counts of
25-30 in boards.
Finally, it would have just been incredibly cool to be able
to import your own music on the Memory Stick Duo into the
game. The tempo could have adjusted automatically, and the
backgrounds could have been visualizations to the beat --
perhaps if there's a sequel.
Overall, for puzzle fans Lumines is a must have launch title.
For non fans it's certainly one to strongly consider. Play
a friend's copy, rent it, borrow it, etc. If you own a PSP,
you need to try it. Mr. Mizuguchi shows once again why he's
a legend in the genre of rhythmic music games, and that he's
not afraid to tackle new challenges like the PSP. Other than
my small complaints about the instruction, and my personal
wish to import music, I have nothing bad to say about Lumines.
It's easy, it's fun, it's challenging, and it's very rewarding
to improve and continue playing.
Playing Hints and Tips
- Try to group like colors so you won't be hunting for a spot with
each new block. Try to keep the playing area free of clutter.
- Survival is all about organizing. Don't get overwhelmed, and stay
- Blocks split when they hang over an edge. Learn to split the blocks
to your advantage as needed.
- When you make a solid block, try and quickly chain on as many
extra solid blocks as possible before the tempo bar passes. You can
easily get 5x or 6x chains far easier once a solid has been started.
- Be careful of your timing. On fast levels, making a solid block
at the wrong time when the tempo bar is passing by could cause only
half of the blocks to disappear. Don't waste good combos with bad
timing. On slow levels, chaining too many blocks too fast can lead
- Try to clear as many blocks as possible with the special block.
If you see one coming up, make as large of a chain as you can before
hand. You'll get huge combos, and if you can have only one color
left, a big score bonus as well.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
In all the years I've played puzzle games,
I don't think I've ever seen one quite as alive as this. Stylish,
unique, and a whole lot of fun… Lumines takes the simple
concept of skins and shows what can really be done.
Not content with just good beats, Lumines
features a soundtrack worthy selection of songs with vocals
and all. Appearances by Mondo Grosso featuring Kj, and Eri
Nobuchika. These are dang good tunes.
Lumines is just a blast to play. The
time attack modes give you a quick game starting at 1 minute,
while the challenge mode can last over two hours. There's something
for everyone here, and the Puzzle, VS CPU and VS 2P modes only
add another layer to this already complete game. CPU and 2P
battles are fast, frantic, and incredibly fun.
With 39 skins to unlock total, 100 levels
in challenge mode, the ultimate test of 999,999 points, and
10 and 20 hour time unlocks, you'll be playing this one for
a very long time to see it all. The game keeps you playing,
and you really do get better at it as you go along. While you
may decide to put aside one day, it'll be just as fresh the
next time you decide to give it another play. Lumines should
age very well, probably much better than many other 1st gen