SONY PSP REVIEW: LUMINES

It appears that the goal of the game Lumines is to have the player reach Nirvana by over-stimulating the body, mind and soul. One reaches a deep, meditative, Zen-like state when surrender to the gameplay becomes complete. From there it's only a short trip to puzzle enlightenment should you choose to explore that path.

Lumines is not for everyone. On the surface it may look like just another Tetris knock-off but it does offer a different dimension. It's not necessarily a deeper or more complex puzzle than Tetris, it's just that it's different. And if you want to get technical you could literally say that it does incorporate different dimensions.

Lunines is a word that means fusion. In this case it's the fusion of light, sound and time. There are multiple challenges running concurrently throughout the gameplay but the most fascinating aspect of the game is that it was designed to appear so simple. After a brief visit to the in-game tutorial you'll be up and running in no time. How long you stay that way will be determined by how you relate to the game which in some cases can be quite addicting while other simply may not "get it."

By fusing music with the gameplay I don't want you to think this is a rhythm game per se. It does require timing but it's more of an internal process. You must become one with the rhythm as opposed to trying to chase it down.

Large blocks drop down the playfield not unlike Tetris. Each large block is made up of four smaller blocks. These smaller blocks only contain one of two colors. There are no other shapes to worry about, they all form boxes. To make them disappear you must move them horizontally, vertically or rotate them to match a group of four similarly-colored squares. It's all sounds pretty easy but there's more to it.

Combos will get you a higher score and that's what you're competing for. You'll get more points if you can arrange larger versions of similar colored boxes such as 4 x 4 and 9 x 9. Here's the crux of the biscuit: They don't automatically turn into combos. There is a musical timeline that sweeps through the playfield in time to the beat of the tune which may allow you some time to build up your combo before it's activated. If the music is slow, you can expect bigger combos but if the song's pumping you'll be lucky to get anything more than your basic 2 x 2 combo.

Having the music interact with the gameplay is a great idea. To make the most of it you have to mentally prepare yourself to work with the music and not to see it as a threat. Your playing style will have to vary somewhat from tune to tune so you might just as well go with the flow.

As you might expect there are a few different modes as well as a two-player mode. You'll be fighting for horizontal space in the two-player mode for your larger combos. If you don't make good use of your space with such combos the timeline will shrink your playfield. It's a good solid fight uncomplicated by extraneous and arbitrary rules.

One thing you'll notice, good or bad, is that there are no difficulty modes. You play the game as one continuous challenge. You will reach plateaus where you feel you are invincible but it will catch up with you eventually. Skins can be unlocked and drive you further into the unknown. These skins consist of different backgrounds, sounds and graphics. All of the skins seem to be consistent within themselves. The music matches the graphics appropriately. Various sound effects pepper the soundtrack when you make combos. With practice you will begin to orchestrate these sound effects in time to the beat, most likely without even being aware of it. Lumines has a way of sneaking up on you.

Lumines is a visual, sonic and intellectual treat. It's engrossing and highly addictive. It may not be the sole reason to own a PSP but it certainly hints at great things to come.

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System: PSP
Dev: Ubi Soft
Pub: Ubi Soft
Released: Mar 2005
Players: 1 - 4
Review by StewXX
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
5.0
MUSIC/FX
4.5
VALUE
4.0