The newest installment in the series of Lumines games, Lumines: Electronic Symphony, is out for the Playstation Vita. This is fitting since the original Lumines started on the Vita’s predecessor, the PSP system. Is this new installment of Lumines worth playing? I definitely think so.
For those of you who have never played a Lumines game, it is a puzzle game that uses music to affect the speed of the game. The basic gameplay is that blocks will drop from the top of the screen and you must stack them at the bottom. Now each of these blocks is made up of 4 smaller blocks that are one of two colors. You score points and keep the board clear by making 2×2 squares with the smaller colored blocks. As you do this there is a sweeping line that travels from the left side of the screen to the right. When it moves over one of these 2×2 squares of all the same color it will wipe them from the screen and let the blocks above drop down.
The standard control for Lumines is to use either the D-pad or analog stick to move the block right and left and then use the buttons to rotate it either clockwise or counter-clockwise. Of course since this is a Vita game, this Lumines has touch controls as well. You can drag the block from side to side with your finger and tap the edges of the screen to rotate the block. These controls work okay for the earlier slower stages but I found them very hard to use once the pace had really picked up. For me, using the D-pad and the buttons is the only way to go
I mentioned that music was part of this game and here is how it affects game play; the faster the music the faster the sweeping line moves on the screen and the faster blocks fall. Of course the opposite is true as well, the slower the music the slower the blocks fall and the slower the sweeping line moves. As you progress through the game the music, background, and block colors all change. Each of these sets of colors, backgrounds and music is called a skin. These skins can really vary from each other and the transition from one to the next can be quite jarring making it hard to concentrate for a moment.
To score points in Lumines, you want to make the sweeping line remove as many 2×2 squares in one pass as possible. You can do this by setting up large chains of squares or just lots of squares all over the screen if you are quick. Now besides the standard color blocks there are two special blocks in this version of Lumines. The first is from previous versions and has a + sign on it. This block is called a chain block. When the chain block is placed, all other blocks of the same color that can be chained to it through connecting blocks of the same color are removed the next time the sweep line moves over them. This can really help clean up any messes of block clusters you have made.
The other special block, and new to this game, is the shuffle block. It has a swirl on it and when it is placed it randomizes all the blocks in the block cluster it is placed in. This can be good and bad. If you have things setup for a big chain you can definitely screw yourself by placing it into the cluster but if you have a large messed up block cluster it can help you out by making matches and removing 2×2 squares for you. I think this is a great new addition to the game since it adds additional luck and strategy into the mix.
Lumines has five game play modes: Voyage, Playlist, Duel, Master, and Stopwatch. Voyage where you just keep going through skins until you make a column so high it obstructs the dropping of a new block and the game ends. This is the base game mode and the one most people will spend the majority of their time in. It can go on quite long depending on how good you are. Playlist is the same as Voyage except you pick which skins are used from the ones you have unlocked in Voyage mode. Duel is a multiplayer mode where you compete against another player. The better you do in this mode the less screen space you give your opponent until one of you can’t build anymore. Master mode is broken into stages and is very fast paced. The object is to survive from stage to stage by using a set number of blocks. This is a very challenging mode and honestly one I am not very good at but still I go back to try to get better. Finally there is Stopwatch which is a time-based mode. In it you just try to get the highest score you can in a predetermined amount of time.
New to the Vita version of Lumines are avatars. You pick an avatar that gives you powers to use once you have built enough power by making chains or tapping on the back touchpad. The powers the avatars give varies from stopping the sweeping arm, to slowing the fall of the blocks, to providing a chain block. These powers can be very helpful and go a long way to assisting a player into getting higher chains and scores. I do find the tapping on the back screen to build up the power rather difficult though. The game is so fast paced it can be hard to remember to tap your finger on the back as you are planning the placement of a block. I also found it awkward to hold the system and tap the back while still controlling everything. Maybe I just have short fingers but it is not very comfortable.
Overall Lumines: Electronic Symphony is a well-executed version of the Lumines games. The new touch controls aren’t really necessary but the added avatars are a good touch. Being on the Vita, the ability to pause a game at any time and then come back to it later makes the Lumines experience even better. The challenge of the game is perfect since it is easy enough for anyone to play but hard enough to keep truly skilled players coming back for more. In the end I highly recommend Lumines: Electronic Symphony to anyone looking for an addicting puzzle game that is challenging without being frustrating.
Final Rating: 8/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Playstation Vita
Time to completion: N/A
Trophies Earned: 4/13
Price Bought at: $37.98 (good old Amazon gold box discount)
Current Price: $39.86 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: $40
Why you should buy it: You enjoyed the previous Lumines games or enjoy puzzle games at all.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: You can’t stand fast moving blocks, are unable to make squares, or don’t enjoy a good beat.