When You First play Lumines, you wonder what the fuss is about. To the blinkered mind, it's the game that everyone played on PSP because Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories hadn't come out yet A couple of brief plays back in '05 confirmed my suspicions that it was a baffling let-down from the mind that had brought the world the wonders of Space Channel 5 and Rez. I was missing two things: time and earphones. For a game where the only point is to drop two-coloured blocks in such a way as to create two-by-two blocks of the same colour, it works in such a gently counterintuitive way that you'll wonder what you're doing wrong. But when the little tricks of how to drop the blocks occur to you (or, you can just play through the challenge and tutorial levels) the simple pleasure of matching up little squares develops its appeal.
Your blocks don't disappear instantly. They're removed by a janitorial bar that combs the play area every four seconds. This is something you have to keep in mind while you're rotating your square: everything removed in one sweep counts towards a combo, and different combos are rewarded with different sounds.
This is where you can feel the hand of Tetsuya Mizuguchi - music has always been integral to his big games and it's woven seamlessly into the gameplay in Lumines. Just like Rez. everything you do makes a sound as harmonious to the ear as it is hypnotically repetitive.
But whilst Rez has stunning visuals to bring you into the game, Lumines does a damn good job of alienating you. Every level changes the music, block design and background video - from high-contrast ambience to barely-distinguishable blocks with acid house visuals.
On these levels, the challenge is simply surviving the eye strain. If Q Entertainment wanted to induce nausea, they could have just popped in a sly goatse behind the block-dropping action. Just spare me from the visuals of a bad '90s dance club.
Lumines is a great puzzle game. For every block-dropping match-and-remove game that works, there must be a hundred that don't and Lumines has the distinction of making you think in a satisfying new way. Puzzle and challenge modes are decent additions, and once you unlock enough backgrounds to set your own playlist, you can relax in your ambient addiction. Just don't try playing it with your mouse, and don't bother with the extra levels and skins the Advance Pack contains, until you know the game's for you.
Perhaps the most sought after of the PSP launch titles, Lumines doesn't disappoint' as long as you've got an hour or two to spare. It's a strange and addictive puzzle game that involves creating blocks, much in the same way that Tetris required you to create lines. It's the invigorating mix of musical interaction and furious gameplay that keeps Lumineson the top. Don't wait until the end of my review, go try this game. It's likely to be the one game that you should buy for the PSP, if you by no others.
There are two major gameplay elements at work in every game of Lumines. First, bricks fall from the sky, one at a time. Each is a 2x2 brick, made up of just two colors, in any of just a few configurations. Your goal, and the primary element of gameplay, is to stack these bricks together to form at least a 2x2 brick of one solid color. Add more bricks to expand the effect, bringing the second gameplay aspect into play, the timeline. The timeline scrolls across the screen, and when it hits your completed brick, it destroys it, gives you points, and allows the rest of the bricks to collapse into the vacuum left behind. That's it. Pretty simple, yet the game has something on the order of at least 90 levels, and every one is more addictive than the last. As you progress through the levels, you'll occasionally change skins, which means you get a graphical upgrade to a new block texture and color, and a new song to play to. Oh, did I mention this is all set to music? Because not only is it set to music, beautifully, but your movements with the bricks add small sound effects that build into the music itself. I don't think it's possible to sound bad while playing this game; they've done such a good job at this feature. Last, you can play 2 player, but it's not nearly as long and thus not quite as fun, in my opinion, and a cute little puzzle mode where you try to make specific shapes with your bricks.
Graphically, there isn't much to Lumines, but in this regard, it actually helps this title to be relatively simple. So you can focus on the gameplay and audio. Aurally, your ears are in for a treat, as it's simply enjoyable to play through these songs, dropping bricks along the way. Definitely a great buy, definitely a game worth owning.