Every time a new video game console comes out, they always talk about the”finisher app” – the only game that will convince the audience to part with their mostly hard-earned money. One of the criteria for an excellent portable game is the ability to pick it up and play for a short time – not to say that depth is not important. In Tetris, the Game Boy had its “finisher app” thanks to its addictive gameplay, which returned players more and more (I could go on, but you understand my point). Is Lumines the Tetris of modern times?
Lumines is the original brainchild of the man behind the cult music-inspired games, Rez and Space Channel 5, and as with these games, music and timing are key to success. Initially, Lumines looks like a clone of Tetris, and you can be forgiven for thinking so, as it shares several similarities. You need to guide the falling blocks, each consisting of four smaller squares, to the position to form blocks of the same color of at least 2 by 2. The blocks can be rotated and moved to the desired position, but unlike Tetris, the individual squares continue to fall until they can not go further, filling all the gaps.
The main difference between Tetris and Lumines is that if the blocks disappear as soon as they have passed a combination, this will not happen until the “timeline” changes over the color blocks you have created. Once a color block of at least 2 by 2 is created, it will be highlighted, but will remain on the screen until the “timeline” goes over the block. This means that you can have several colored blocks in the play area waiting to be cleared from the “timeline”. This is actually encouraged, since the game will reward you with more points, the more blocks will be cleared from the “timeline” in one move. It is actually possible to clear the entire screen, resulting in a fairly large number of bonus points, but this is usually only possible with the special block that clears all connected blocks of the same color. Like Tetris, the game ends when the blocks stack too high.
The Challenge mode, which is basically a matter of “last as long as possible”, is what you’ll spend most of your time doing. What makes this mode so good is how the game is divided into different levels called “skins”. Each “skin”has a unique feel and plays differently than the next. In addition to another graphic aspect, the blocks will fall faster and the speed with which the “timeline” moves on the screen will change. In a rather clever twist, the timeline moves more slowly into the subsequent levels. This gives you a chance to get higher scores, but makes survival much harder.
As you progress through Challenge mode, you’ll unlock skins that you can play in single skin mode. Here you can choose a skin to play without time limit. One of the most hectic modes is the time strike game. In this mode you set a time limit of 1 minute, 3 minutes, 5 minutes or 10 minutes and you will be challenged to create as many squares as possible within the set time. It’s a nice addition to the main challenge mode, which focuses on block making and not so much on long-term survival, although both go hand in hand. The last single player mode is the puzzle mode, where you have the task of recreating shapes. It may seem easy, but it’s actually quite difficult. After all, getting the required shape just for the time that fractions of a second pass before the “timeline” completely goes over the shape is incredibly frustrating.
I maul another PSP puzzle, Mercury, for a bit of a disposable two-player mode. Fortunately, on this front, Lumines offers a very entertaining Vs mode, against the processor or wirelessly against a human opponent (I say human, but anything capable could play against you). In this mode, the playing area is halved with a bar in the middle. When you remove blocks from your play zone, the bar will move through your opponent’s area, reducing your opponent’s surface and making it much more difficult to succeed. The only disappointing aspect of multiplayer is the fact that your opponent needs a copy of the game.