theuselessgod's Lumines: Puzzle Fusion (PlayStation Portable) review

Sequel is a must-buy. Original? A bit bare-bones.

The Short

Pros

- Excellent puzzle game fusing music with block puzzlers

- Incredibly addicting

- Great on a handheld

- Visuals and music are top notch

- Easy to learn, difficult to get chains in

- Seriously, what do you expect from the guy who made Rez and Space Channel 5?

Cons

- Serious lack of modes

- New songs/colors are unlocked by playing further through the game in a single sitting, meaning most people won't see them all

- Vs. Mode isn't really all that awesome

- Could have benefitted from more songs or a shuffle mode

Let there be colors

The Long

Not going to lie: I'm pretty bad at Lumines. Just thought I'd through that out there. Or, at least I think I'm bad at it. Over the last few games, I've developed some strategies that I think will help me play better in the future. Plus, over the last few games I actually got some chains and figured out how to best work them with the power-up clearing piece. Just...hang on a sec, I bet if I tried again...

Hmm, yeah. I'm still the worst Lumines player. But I did get to a new theme and song this time! I wonder which one is after that one? Let me just put the computer down for a moment, I'll try again...

Yeah, I suck at this game, don't know why I keep playing it. I just really like the music, I guess, and the fact that when a track ends all the colors and shapes change completely. It's pretty cool. Speaking of which, the newest color/shape fusion I unlocked was really strange. Let me just boot it up again to check for the review...

...

What was I doing again?

I guess I'll put a graphic or something. Hang on, almost cleared this side...

Lumines is a puzzle game from Tetsuya Mizuguchi, famed creator of the Dreamcast's bizarre Space Channel 5 and the PS2's Rez (infamous for the "trance-vibrator" attachment...) and was one of the earliest PSP games to be released. Since then it's showed up on XBLA and gathered a few sequels, but here I'm just reviewing the original, unaltered game. So...is Lumines to the PSP what Tetris was to the Game Boy?

Not quite on the same level, but it's certainly no fault of Lumines. In this block-dropping, music-beat based puzzler, Q? Software has created something awesome. And really, really hard to put down.

I could never do this.

In concept, Lumines is very simple. You are given a variety of cubes, each with a pattern of one or two colors. These can be generated in literally any combination available, keeping you on your toes. Once they show up you have free reign to spin them to your hearts desire as they fall (like Tetris), and if they fall with part of it falling over the side that part drops (unlike Tetris). Your goal is to get at least four of the same color in a square, which will fill in the squares. From that, you can extend the reach in groups of two or more at any angle, so long as you started with a nice 2x2 of the same color. Sounds simple? Well...uh...I guess? No?The trick lies in the music. While you are playing a catchy tune (from a variety of genres including techno, trance, J-Pop, and others) beats in the background, and a bar pushes itself across the screen in time. As it crosses your finished blocks it blows 'em up, and the more it covers in a pass the more bonus points you get.

Watch me Zen out in this game.

This is where tricks come in. If you make a block right when the bar is passing, it might not blow up the whole box, which can screw you over. It also is good to build the chains right when it starts over again, but often you don't have time to preference as your blocks keep falling. It's a neat trick that makes the game feel a bit more frantic, which I appreciated. Especially since without it you probably could better time your placements, and with it I end up making huge useless piles of blocks that have no hope of getting destroyed.Speaking of useless piles of blocks, the game does give you an out. There are specials attached to some blocks that, when made into a big collection, will delete every block of the same color that touches that collection (and can chain out). Again, the line-beat rule is in effect, so you can either use it super effectively or screw yourself. I appreciate that this power up (the only one, I might add) is in the game, because if not you'd get dug so deep you'd just be screwed forever.

It's a Chain Reaction!

That, in a nutshell, are the core mechanics of the game, and as it stands it is very addicting. You're probably thinking it sounds super simple, huh? Yea? Well, Tetris was super simple. Bejeweled was super simple. So hush and go play five rounds in a row because you can't quit.This original game does lack a lot of features the sequels would add, though. It has a bare bones list of modes, only including a Single Player, a sort of "remix" mode (that lets you pick from songs you've unlocked), a Vs CPU mode (which isn't honestly that great) and a vs Player mode if you are in the same room with somebody on the wireless.

While I could again toss out the Tetris argument, it really does feel lacking, especially considering how you unlock new songs. The constant shift of songs (which also changes all the shapes while you are playing to different colors, etc.) is what makes the game entertaining, but the only way to unlock more is to grind through the Single Player mode to get to them. Fail, and you start all the way over, and they always go in the same order. A "remixed" mode, where it just shuffled through them all, would have been a fantastic addition. Instead, you'd better like the first five or so, because unless you get really good you'll probably just unlock those for your whole time with Lumines.

The color swaps can really catch you off guard.

I love the way this game looks. It's got a sort of seizure-inducing, pulsing-beat vibe to it, and the fact the shapes and backgrounds change with the songs only intensifies the awesome. The bright colors really pop on the PSP's screen, and each of the shape combinations is unique and (weirdly enough) memorable.The music is also great, in a Rez slash Child of Eden slash Space Channel 5 way. Lots of crazy j-pop mixed with kickin beats and techno. There's something in here for everybody, though I will admit a few of the songs are a bit...grating. I wish I could just pick and choose the ones I wanted (again, have to unlock them), but hey, most are fantastic so we'll take it.

Verses mode is...uh...it's ok? I guess?

Lumines is awesome. If you've never played it and you enjoy action-puzzle games, you should. It's beautiful, incredibly addicting, and has an awesome sense of style to it.That being said, the lack of modes really makes this original release feel lackluster. To be completely honest, if you are looking to get into the series, ditch this one and jump on Lumines 2 instead. More modes, more songs (and I think it has all the ones from the original, too), and a better unlocking system. This game is still great and I'm totally hooked, but if you had to choose the sequel is the same game but better.

But still, quite an awesome puzzler. Grab the second one if you have a PSP, for sure.

Three out of five stars.

WHAT IS GOING ON.

More at http://nathanvsvideogames.blogspot.com

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