The concept of Lumines is simple: use these falling two-toned blocks to make same-colored squares. Executing this idea is at first difficult, but once you figure out the most strategic ways to fit the falling blocks together, breezing through 30 minutes worth of puzzle will be a snap and the only main challenge remaining will be improving your dexterity in being able to quickly move those blocks. Lumines is indeed strange in that it’s a little more difficult to pick up than your average puzzler, but making the jump from being a good to great player is merely a matter of adeptness with the simplistic controls.
Since the days of Tetris and Columns (or at least since the days these puzzles have had sequels and countless remakes), puzzle games typically employ changing the backgrounds and colors or shapes of the blocks as you progress through different levels. Lumines takes this common practice and multiplies it to a new level. Lumines has flashy backgrounds that can include a video or moving pictures, and an accompanying tune to play along with it, and unique audio-visual atmosphere. The backgrounds are intriguing, distracting and sometimes surreal, ranging from a line of 6 jumping ears to simply a montage of dogs and dog-related pictures. A majority of the accompanying music has a non-vocal, techno, synthesized flair, but there are a pleasing amount of song from pop, rock, rap and alternative genres, like Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl, Beck’s Black Tamborine, the Black-Eyed Peas’s “Pump It” and Missy Elliot’s Lose Control. Although the songs come from a wide spread of genres, the music is appealing, and even the sound effects, that go with laying down a block, making squares and clearing squares are pleasing in that they match the theme established by that particular level.
Clearing squares is one of the most rewarding things in the game. Once you assemble the falling blocks into a square, a vertical line called the timeline scans the puzzle from left-to-right and will clear the squares, making more room in your puzzle. The timeline accelerates and decelerates with the tempo of each song, giving each level it’s own rhythm. Leftover blocks that don’t make same-colored squares will get left behind. If not assimilated into a square, these blocks will be left behind by the timeline and build up if you’re not careful. If your puzzle continues to build up, blocks will eventually fill the screen resulting in the disappointing “Game Over.” But, when the timeline rolls over the squares, they disappear in a visually mesmerizing shower of sparks, cleansing your board and giving you a radiantly satisfied feeling. Couple this dynamic with the soothing audio and visual effects, and you’ve got an all-around enjoyable experience (once you learn how to play well, that is).
However, this is essentially what all Lumines games offer. If you have a Lumines game, you probably already have everything the game offers, unless you are a hardcore fan absolutely dieing for some new songs. The gameplay is the same and aside from the regular “survive as long as you can” play that is the core of Lumines, two forms of logic-based mini-puzzles are included (just like in Lumines I). Lumines II simply isn’t expansive or strong enough as a sequel to justify buying if you already own a Lumines game.
Also, the PSP will sometimes lag between the simultaneous level, song, and background change. The game will also slow down if you rack up an insanely huge combo including multiple squares. This slight hiccup in play isn’t a huge deal, but throws your rhythm a bit when full speed kicks back in.
The appeal of Lumines? It’s quirky, flashy, mesmerizing and oddly comforting once you get good at it. If you haven’t played Lumines before, Lumines II is a great place to jump in, especially because of that extremely attractive $20 price point for a very entertaining puzzle game. But if you’re a veteran Lumines player, LuminesII isn’t truly worth the upgrade.