|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Q Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Buena Vista Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: E 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
Lumines II is Lumines with a facelift. It looks refreshed, if not new, but it's still the same old game inside - which isn't a bad thing since it's such a great puzzle game.
Lumines II doesn't take the Lumines gameplay to any new heights, instead it expands horizontally, adding more features to the pre-existing gameplay such as new tunes, graphics, and modes, including a helpful tutorial mode that covers all the basics so that newbies can get involved.
Lumines is a Tetris-based puzzle game, but unlike so many "Tetris-inspired" games, Lumines has a style all its own. It has a high-tech presentation and incorporates music into the mix with the inclusion of a timeline that sweeps through the playfield in time to the beat. The timeline basically checks your progress as it scans the blocks and awards your score based on the colored combos you are able to make. Unlike Tetris where parts of your blocks disappear the instant you create a line, the continuously moving timeline gives you a few extra seconds to go for a larger combo before it processes the score. If this is confusing, I may be getting ahead of myself so here's the lowdown on the gameplay.
Blocks fall from the top of the screen and fill up the playfield. The object of the game, like Tetris, is to get rid of them before they accumulate and reach the top of the screen. If they do, it's game over. Each block is made up of four sections. These four sections are basically squares and can be one of any two colors. There are only two colors in any particular level. For the sake of convenience, let us say the colors will be red and white. One block can have one red and three white squares. Or it can have two red and two white, or it can have three red and one white. Easy enough so far? In order to get rid of these blocks, you have to line them up with other blocks in the bin so that similar colors are touching the sides of the blocks in such a way that they form one completely colored block made up of all four similar colored sections. The section could be bigger, but that's the minimum requirement. Using the controls, you manipulate each block by rotating it while it falls. The higher the pile of blocks, the less time you'll have to rotate them to the desired position as they fall. Once the block is in place, you may have time to position a few more until the timeline makes its sweep and clears off the combos. Sounds easy enough? If you still can't grasp the concept, the in-game tutorial will make everything crystal clear.
But there's more to the Lumines gameplay than just clearing out the blocks from the bin. Improving your overall score each and every time you play is a challenge that drives some gamers to distraction and increases the replay value to almost ridiculous proportions. As I mentioned, making more combos before the timeline sweeps past the area is the best way to increase your score. You'll get some big points if the block is larger than the minimum four squares. More advanced players will strive to have the playfield reduced to just one color or have it entirely empty. Don't expect a lot of help from power-ups or otherwise "magic" blocks as there is only one style of block that will empower you. This manages to keep the gameplay pure and, like Tetris, it lets you rely on your skills and wits and not to become dependant on handouts from the CPU like an intellectually challenged, garbage dump bear. The blinking block, when used as part of a combo, will cause all similar colored blocks to disappear. It's a useful tool and while it may be a bit of a giveaway, it can be put to great strategic use. To confuse you further, some of these blocks can actually be circles, but it's purely cosmetic as they still function as a four-section block.
You can play LII alone, you can challenge the CPU, or you can play against another person via the ad-hoc wireless system. The Vs. mode pits you against the computer with a split screen. The object of this mode is to gain control of the entire screen. The quicker you are able to clear blocks the more control you will receive of the other screen. Dual mode is the same as Vs. except that you play against another human.
Single-player modes include Challenge, Mission, and Puzzle. The Challenge mode features four different difficulty settings and can take days to complete. Mission modes are timed events in which you must perform some specific task within a given time limit such as clear a certain number of blocks within a given number of moves. The Puzzle mode features more than 100 puzzles in which you have to recreate images of things such as snakes, planes, and apples.
It would be easy to dismiss some of these problems as inherent when porting a game to the handheld but Lethal Alliance is not a port, it was designed specifically for the handheld market. Perhaps because it was also designed for the DS some compromises had to be made. Graphically its a good looking game and even though the gameplay is largely predictable, there is enough variety to keep you interested and motivated. The environments arent overly detailed but when filled with animated characters such as droids and Stormtroopers, youll be thankful for the extra space which allows you to better maneuver Rianna. The voiceovers are professionally performed but there is a lot of overlapping dialog which is awfully distracting, to the point that I wasnt paying attention to what they were saying. Musically the game is excellent and if theres one thing that all Star Wars games have in common, its equally excellent sound effects.
Lumines II has a futuristic, high-tech look to it with the timeline relentlessly scanning the playfield like some kind of digital sentinel. The backgrounds come alive with animated displays and even full-colored videos of licensed artists such as Beck, Black Eyed Peas, Chemical Brothers, and Gwen Stefani. These tunes actually detract from the original "organic" experience that made the original Lumines so refreshing and the background videos are also visually distracting. I like the Japanese pop of the original and fortunately some of it has returned. So there's a little something for everyone. A musical editor is also featured which allows you to remix various audio tracks and add your own beats and tempos. It's fun and easy to play around with, but not very user-friendly if you want to create something original. But if you've got plenty of time on your hands, this will give you an entirely different challenge from the Lumines gameplay.
Lumines comes with a demo of the developer's new game Every Extend Extra. You don't need a separate copy to play the ad hock wireless Dual mode. Oddly enough there is no auto save, so if you're in the middle of the lengthy Challenge mode you better make sure to save your progress manually or you'll be in for some unintended, extended replay value. Overall the game is a blast, but the difference between the sequel and the original is purely cosmetic.
CCC Senior Writer