Lumines PSP Review

I was Seven, it was snowing outside, the fire was burning bright, there were presents under a Christmas tree, the tree sadly was dying due to lack of water, but that is a story for another day! I rushed to open presents brought by the jolly man in a red suit the night before. I knew there was a GameBoy under that tree somewhere as I had scribbled it on a list a few weeks before that. I dug through the presents, most that did not have my name on, those, I promptly through over my shoulder only to miss the burning fire by a few inches. I finally reached a small rectangular box, “This must be it” I though!

I hurriedly tore open the package, and sure enough lay that giant vertical rectangular grey block I wanted so much, but the game I wanted was not there, I tore open other packages looking for it but alas I found nothing all I had was something called Tetris, something which I never asked for but now on that cold Christmas morning had in my hands. I ran out and grabbed a pack of AA batteries which had fell behind some sofa, I ran back put them in the GameBoy and started playing.

Music “Type A” belting out of the tiny speaker, little block falling down a screen in fantastic greyscale visuals on a screen that could not been seen correctly unless I sat on the floor directly under a 100 Watt light. I sat there creating line for hours and hours getting high score after high score waiting “one more go” after “one more go”, this was addictive gameplay at its best. The game was simple but I loved it. I crazily thought “no game could be better than this”, but that crazy thought kind of turned out to be true.

There may be better games out there now but through the last 10+ years there was no puzzler to rival the simpleness and addictiveness that was Tetris. At least that is what I though until 5pm on Thursday the 31 March 2005. I am no longer creating lines, I am no longer listing to Music Type A. Creating lines is “So Last Centaury” creating squares is the future!

Gameplay

The basic concept behind Lumines is simple to understand but relatively hard to master, this being one of the reasons the game can become so addictive. Thanks to the widescreen aspect of the PSP screen you are given and large grid to play with, much larger than you would expect if you have played other puzzlers before this but you will need to use every pixel of this given space if you expect to get scores over the 100K mark.

The aim of the game is to create 2×2 blocks of the same colour in your given play area – these blocks will then be removed as a line called the timeline sweeps across at given intervals. The more blocks you get rid of at one time the higher your score will be and if you get rid of four or more on any given sweep your score will be multiplied. That’s simple you may say but let me tell you it is far from it!

There is only one type of special block in Lumines which have a small diamond or gem in the middle of them to represent the ability, these blocks remove all other blocks that touch a 2×2 square when it is destroyed. However, you don’t get a lot of points from removing blocks like this. However, it is a very good way of eradicating almost half the colours from the screen if you place it correctly which will give you loads of space to play with again if you were in trouble, as your game ends if the blocks stack too high!

Lumines is set apart form its peers by the way the game changes as you play, not just visually or acoustically but the gameplay changes once every new level (skin) appears. Each skin may look different and make a different song playing in the background but the song change also has a small effect on the timeline giving you less or sometime more time to get your blocks into place to score the points.

Rather surprisingly for a puzzle games there are loads of options and different game modes you can chose. Puzzle Mode challenges you to make specific shapes with blocks that drop, which is a whole lot harder than it sounds. Single Skin mode does exactly what it says on the tin, allowing you to play on just one skin for as long as you can hoping to get a high-score in the process. In Time attack you must try and make as many 2×2 squares as you can in a set time frame. Then there is Vs. Mode that can be played against a friends via wi-fi or the computer. In this mode the screen is split vertically down the middle, you must clear blocks and get combos. With each combo given, your friends’ space to play with is reduced and you get more space. Lastly there is the game main mode, Challenge Mode, which is where the games’ real challenge lies. Your challenge (I am starting to hate that word) is to play through all the skins the game has to offer, unlocking them all as you go hoping to get your highest of high-scores and having loads of fun on the way.

Graphics

Although the game is not that graphically impressive it does have a certain welcoming warm feel to it. It looks like a lot of thought has gone into creating each of this skins making each one of them different from the other. Each skin you unlock will have the same basic elements of the one you played previous but will be different in colour, style and feel to it, with different shaped blocks, different pictures in the background and many small changes to where the text is placed. It may not sound that exciting but it is one of the small elements that in the grand scheme of things that helps the game to be special! There is nothing new or mind blowing to see here, if you want a game to show the PSP’s graphical prowess off to your friends then go pick up Ridge Racer.

Sound

Usually when I speak of sound and handheld gaming I find myself straining to think of words to write but due to the PSP using UMD as its storage medium this is about to change. Lumines is the first PSP game I have played that has chosen to jump at the chance to include fantastic CD-quality music within the game. Not only is there great sound in Lumines, part of what makes Lumines great is the sound!

Forefront of this quality music is the talents of Japanese artist Mondo Grosso. The entire game is actually centred around music. The sound effects that the game creates are each part of the song, these sounds only play if you drop, move a block or create a 2×2 square. You essentially help build the music as you play! This can be a very rewarding experience and help give you that extra bit of encouragement to build your high score. Each skin also has different sounds which affect play and with over 25 skins to unlock you won’t be getting bored too soon.

Lifespan

The game has almost an inexhaustable lifespan, there is so much to unlock you could literarily be playing for months without removing the UMD from you PSP. You only have one skin when you start the game, all others must be unlocked. You get most of the skins by venturing deeper in the challenge mode which takes time to get good at. It takes almost 2.5 hours of continues play to get from Shinin’ (the first skin) to Lights (the last skin) and if you mess up along the way you have to start again! Challenging isn’t it?! Even if you manage to finish the game, which could take anything from a week to a month to accomplish then there is always the chance of going back again to get a higher score. There is also a special skin unlocked if you can reach a score of 999,999! I wonder how many people will get that anytime soon!

Overall

Lumines takes seconds to learn and a lifetime (possibly shorter than that) to master. It is one of the greatest launch titles for a system ever. If you own and PSP and this is not sitting near the top of your collection then you really should consider getting it. If you are still wondering if the PSP is worth it then this is one of the launch games that could make that decision a little easier. They say time flies when you are having fun; if you own a copy of Lumines there is absolutely no doubt you unintentionally will miss some important appointment.

With a fantastic selection of memorable catchy tunes moulded together with a simple easy to learn and addictive gameplay, Lumines is the perfect game for a handheld whether you have just ten minutes or a long two hours to kill.

9.3 out of 10

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