reviews\ May 1, 2005 at 8:00 pm

Lumines - PSP - Review

With the launch of a new system there is usually the mandatory puzzle game released with the new system.  This is remarkably true with portable systems and with the launch of the PSP we’re presented with not only a puzzle game but also one of the best puzzle games ever released.  Comparing Lumines to other puzzle games is easy to do but at the same time an injustice.  Puzzle games are usually just blocks or colors that have to be arranged in a certain order but Lumines escalates the puzzle genre to another level.


The immediate difference you will see (or experience) with Lumines is the presentation of the game.  Still pictures of the game will never do the game justice until you actually play the game.  The backgrounds are almost alive with pulsing, vibrant and spectacular effects that will almost hypnotize you during the game.  But Lumines doesn’t throw everything at you right away.  Instead the game will slowly transform while you’re playing which will suck you in and have you addicted.  The graphics for the different levels are called skins.  You earn the skins as you keep progressing through the single player (Challenge mode) version.  Even the colors of the blocks change as the game progresses.  The colors will always remain two different colors but will change to some of the most unusual and innovative colors I have ever seen in a puzzle game.



The blocks, of course, play a huge role in how the game plays since this is a puzzle game.  All of the blocks are in a 4X4-rectangle pattern with the only difference being the colors and location of the colors in the blocks.  The goal is to create a block of the same color from the blocks falling in the game.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Well it is but at the same time it’s very challenging.  Since the blocks are composed of only two colors the placement of the colors within the block is where part of the challenge lies within the game.  Rotating the block will only change the placement of the colors within the block.  But looking at the next few blocks that will fall and the placement of the blocks that have already fallen will give you an almost limited amount of strategies to think about while playing.



The other challenging part of the game revolves around how the blocks are removed during the game.  I mentioned earlier that the goal is to create a block (4X4 size) of the same color.  However just because you create the block doesn’t mean you earn any points.  Lumines does something different than other puzzles games.  It has a Time Line feature that has a bar scrolling across the screen from left to right.  If you have a block created of the same color then the Time Line bar will then remove the blocks from play.  So just because you create a block doesn’t mean the block will disappear.  You have to wait until the Time Line bar moves across the screen before the blocks will disappear.  But to keep you guessing and working all the time the Time Line bar will change speed during each stage/level.  If you have a ton of blocks on the far right side of the screen then you will probably be sweating bullets waiting for the Time Line bar to scroll all the way to the right side. 



Besides a fantastic single player game Lumines offers some other amazing gameplay modes.  The first one that deserves your attention is the Puzzle mode.  This mode possibly could slap you around and make you feel powerless.  It’s a simple and entertaining idea; create a pattern such as a cross, square, etc from the falling blocks.  Instead of trying to remove blocks now the goal is to be artist.  It’s a really simple idea when you read about it but actually playing it might have you screaming at your PSP.  The patterns you have to create cannot have the same color blocks touching each other.  Once again, the pattern you create cannot have another block of the same color touching the pattern.  The pattern must have blocks of the opposite color touching the entire pattern before you can clear the stage.  Creating crosses and squares are easy but just wait until you have to create animal patterns!


The other unique gameplay mode is the VS. mode.  You can play the VS mode either wireless against another player with their own PSP (and copy of Lumines) or against the computer.  The VS mode has you competing for space on the screen against the other player.  The more blocks you eliminate the larger your playing field will become.  But just as your playing field will increase the other player’s field will decrease.  Which leads to some frantic gameplay sessions where you think everything is going great until you only have a small portion of the playing field left.  All of this can happen in just a short amount of time that will keep you from playing it safe.  The VS mode also allows you to unlock additional skins that can be played during the Single-Skin mode. 


Lumines is a gem amongst a ton of remakes, sequels and the wasteland of games that reside in the gaming industry today.  Sometimes finding a true classic when a new system is released is rare.  But Lumines excels in providing an entertaining and fascinating gaming experience that shouldn’t be missed by anyone with a PSP.  Out of the games I’ve played for the PSP this is the one game that I keep playing over again.  It has an easy learning curve that allows anyone to pick up and play the game but it has enough layers to keep hardcore gamers challenged.  There is only one feature of the game that I don’t like, which is that you cannot select the level you want to play in the Challenge Mode.  You will play the same levels/skins over and over again before you progress to the higher levels.  Hey that’s why they do make sequels sometimes, to fix what didn’t seem to be a problem the first time. 



Gameplay 8.7

It’s simple, addictive, challenging and entertaining.  Everything that makes a great puzzle game are included and then turned up to 11 in Lumines.  The Time Line bar is a great feature that will keep you on your toes/fingers at all times.  The Puzzle Mode and VS mode are just different enough that they could be their own unique games.


Graphics 8.8 

The graphics in the game have to be seen to be believed.  The colors are rich and vibrant which makes the screen come alive.  The backgrounds are so unique that you will never expect this level of graphic detail from a puzzle game.  Some of the stages/skins are so beautiful that you will want to show off the graphics capabilities of the PSP with Lumines.  How many times have you done that with a puzzle game? 

Sound 8.7 

Here is another reason to love this game.  The music in this game is fantastic.  I’m not a big fan of techno style music but I enjoyed all of the music in the game.  All of the tracks are catchy and will have you pumping up the volume on your PSP.  The music even seems to be in synch with the game itself making the whole experience more enjoyable.


Difficulty: Medium/Hard 

The saying “Easy to learn but a life time to master” applies with Lumines.  The Challenge Mode and VS modes are easy enough for anyone to play.  The difficulty will slowly ramp up in the Challenge Mode and VS mode is fast pace to keep you second-guessing all the time.  The most difficult mode is the Puzzle mode which some will consider impossible at first.  But once you “get it” then the Puzzle mode will be so much easier.


Concept 9.0 

The visuals, sound/music, and gameplay modes are all close to revolutionary for a puzzle game.  Sure this game won’t set the gaming industry on fire but for puzzle games it’s enough to keep puzzle developers second-guessing for a long time.  But the best part of the game is that you can show off your PSP with pride by just having Lumines.  It’s so engrossing in the whole package that I wouldn’t be surprised if gamers bought the PSP just for Lumines.  


Multiplayer 8.0 

The VS mode is the meat and potatoes of the Multiplayer mode.  Now the gameplay portion of the VS mode is fantastic.  The only reason why this wasn’t scored higher is because the game only supports Ad Hoc mode on the PSP.  There is a feature in the PSP called game sharing that allows another player to play with you but without having to purchase another copy of the game.  It would have been nice if either the game supported true wireless internet gameplay or game sharing.   


Overall: 8.8 

Lumines is the one puzzle game that everyone needs to play.  Yes I said it (actually I wrote it) but everyone needs to play this game.  I’ve played a ton of puzzle games before but not many of them come close to Lumines.  Some of the other games might surpass Lumines from a gameplay standpoint (Tetris) but none of them can compete with Lumines on a visual standpoint.  Sure the game press has written over again that graphics are secondary to gameplay but it’s always nice when the graphics (and music) help to enhance the gameplay.  Lumines is a prime example and a game that no one should miss out on. 






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