Lumines (PSP) review
"There was a game that came out for the PS2 about 2 years ago that looked set to revolutionise the way videogames looked, by making the gameplay have an impact upon the sound and visuals of the game, and vice versa. The graphics pulsed in time to the pounding techno music, the tunes themselves grew more complex as each level progressed and got trickier, each time an enemy was destroyed they emitted an electronic pulsing sound that went in time to the music. It looked fantastic, sounded beautiful,..."
There was a game that came out for the PS2 about 2 years ago that looked set to revolutionise the way videogames looked, by making the gameplay have an impact upon the sound and visuals of the game, and vice versa. The graphics pulsed in time to the pounding techno music, the tunes themselves grew more complex as each level progressed and got trickier, each time an enemy was destroyed they emitted an electronic pulsing sound that went in time to the music. It looked fantastic, sounded beautiful, was good fun to play and, while technically pretty easy and short, it was such an exhilarating experience that it was simply crying out to be played by everyone in the world. Itís still one of the most exciting games that you can get for the PS2.
Its name was Rez, and it sold about 12 copies.
Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, and the wonderfully speedy delivery service of my favourite international games store, I now have in my possession a brand, spangly new Japanese PSP. Truth be told, itís a pretty nasty machine. Itís far too heavy, the battery life is pathetic and when allís said and done, itís nothing more than a little PS2 that plays little PS2 games (look at the games that are out already Ė almost all of them have some counterpart or other on the handheldís bigger brother). But anyway Ė Lumines. Lumines is a game brought you by the same company who brought you Rez (well remembered) and the equally fantastic and stylish Space Channel 5. If youíve played either of those games, then you probably donít need to read any further Ė youíll be drooling at the prospect of it already (and just this once, your instincts should be trusted). But for the uninitiated, read on, do.
Lumines is a puzzle game. Itís kind of like a cross between Tetris, Super Puyo Puyo and a fancy music video. A square block made up of 4 cubes of two different colours falls down the screen, and you can rotate the block around until it hits the ground. The idea is to arrange the falling squares so that you create a Ďblockí of four or more cubes of the same colour. There is a vertical line (which looks and acts like a time bar from a music creation program) that sweeps across the screen and removes any of these blocks when it touches them, and if you reach the top of the screen with your shapes, its game over. And thatís about it. Like all the best videogames, you can learn how to play this in about 30 seconds without a manual (which is pretty lucky in my case, cos the manualís all in Japanese), you get better at it the more you play, it looks and sounds utterly beautiful and it is stupendous fun.
Like Rez and Space Channel 5, presentation is key here. The backgrounds pulse and move to the actually-quite-cool techno/dance tracks that youíll hear, and each track is represented by a Ďskiní, featuring 2 signature colours for the blocks and the little animations and pictures youíll get in the backdrop. The main game always starts you on the same level, but from then on the playing order seems to be set to random Ė youíll almost never get the skins in the same order twice, which makes it a little easier to discover new ones (you can also play individual rounds on particular skin, but only ones youíve unlocked by playing them in the main game). Thereís no difficulty curve as such here, the blocks donít really start to fall any faster as the game progresses, and your only enemy is yourself as you try not to build your tower too high. The widescreen of the PSP is used to full effect as well, and itís commendably easy to fling your block from one side of the screen to the other.
Aside from this straightforward (sounding, at least) mode, there is also a puzzle mode where you have to arrange your blocks to form pictures on the screen, or to score a pre-set amount of points or something like that. You know, if just getting high scores isnít good enough for you. Thereís also a two player mode, but since I donít know anyone else with a PSP and copy of the game (you have to remember that the videogames industry hates Europeans, so most of us have to wait anything up to a year after the rest of the world gets hold of a new games system before weíre allowed to have a go), I canít tell you how much fun it is to play. But you can also play the two player game against the computer, and it does look like it could make for a particularly good multi-player jaunt. Essentially, the screen is split vertically down the middle to begin with and good combos and scores force the dividing line over, so the player lagging behind has to contend with a smaller playing area while the better player gets more space Ė rewarding the good players and giving the bad ones an incentive to keep trying. Anyone else remember when most games were like this?
Lumines is also one of the most addictive games I can remember. When I first got it a few months ago, it was, quite literally, devouring whole days of my life as I struggled to unlock extra skins and top my highest scores. Itís the first game in absolutely years to enter my dreams at night and cause me to see falling blocks in front of my eyes as Iím trying to work during the day. Apparently this sort of thing happened to a few of my Tetris-loving chums back in 1990, or thereabouts, and they were amazed to hear me raving of another game capable of the same feat.
Which I guess means itís about time for some summing up. Iím loathe to admit it in this case, but no single game is worth the extortionate price of the hardware required to run it, and Lumines is, quite simply, the ONLY essential PSP game at the moment (donít believe the hype, Wipeout Pure is actually pretty dull). Give it a few months until weíve got some more great games for the system, then go and buy one and put Lumines at the top of your shopping list. It deserves nothing less, and I hope that we keep getting games like this forever.
Community review by gazgt (June 03, 2005)
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