Since it blasted its way on to the market on the PSP, Lumines has established itself as a force to be reckoned with. With its slick visuals, throbbing techno beats, and hypnotic puzzle action, it stands out among the crowded field of look-alike puzzlers. A new Sony handheld means a brand new entry in the series. Lumines: Electronic Symphony adds several new features that take advantage of Sony’s powerful machine. Despite some missteps, it stands out as a worthy addition to the launch lineup, sure to eat up plenty of time and battery life while you bob your head to the Ootz Ootz Ootz.
Visually, Lumines is as impressive as always. The skins in the game vary in quality, but most pop off that beautiful Vita screen with sharp contrasts and vibrant colors. Some of the skins have color pallets that aren’t as attractive as others, but there are sure to be multiple looks that appeal to every player. The menus, likewise, are well designed both functionally and aesthetically.
Veteran Lumines players will be instantly familiar with the gameplay on display here. Position like-colored blocks into square or rectangular shapes before a sweeping line passes over them in order to eliminate them and score points. The more blocks you eliminate in a single pass, the higher your combo rating and the more points you score. There are also chain blocks that eliminate all like-colored blocks that are touching them and shuffle blocks which scramble emplaced squares. The scramble blocks often do more harm than good, completely demolishing any purposely built patterns that a player has been working on. New to this iteration of the series are Avatars with different abilities to alter the game in various ways. For example, one of the bonuses generates a chain block at will. Avatar abilities are limited in use and need to be recharged to use again, adding a layer of strategy to the game.
The game does take advantage of the Vita’s touch control capacity, both in the front and rear of the device. The front touchscreen can be used to control blocks, however the sluggishness and lack of precision will cause most players to immediately abandon this scheme in favor of the more traditional controls. The front is also used to control avatar activation and menu navigation, tasks it is much better suited for. The rear touchscreen can be tapped in order to reduce the cooldown time for the player’s avatar bonus.
The selection of game modes on display here contains both old favorites and new additions. Voyage mode is your standard “play till you mess up” offering typical in the genre. Stopwatch tasks you with clearing as many blocks as possible in a given time limit. In Playlist mode, you determine the order and arrangement of songs and skins. The last single player mode is the challenging Master mode, which steps the challenge up through five increasingly difficult stages.
The game does offer a multiplayer Duel mode, although it’s only offered Ad Hoc with no Vs CPU support. This is a disappointing oversight from a game that gets so much else correct. The Duel mode sees you attempting to chain together combos to increase your real estate on the screen and slowly eliminate the space that your opponent can use. This makes for a much more intense experience than simply dumping extra blocks on the other person. Also, in the multiplayer category, is the World Block mode. More a community task than an actual standalone mode, World Block tasks the entire Lumines community with eliminating a block total every 24 hours. Every block that you eliminate during that period counts towards the overall elimination total. This is a pretty interesting addition, and I find myself checking on the community’s progress often between my Voyage play sessions.
While the $40 price tag is a bit steep, Lumines is a very capable puzzler and a worthy addition to any player’s Vita launch lineup. Puzzle games work perfectly on the go, and there are endless hours of replayability built into this package. With its gorgeous visuals, head bobbing audio tracks, and addictive action, I would recommend Electronic Symphony to anyone even remotely interested in puzzle games. Those of you looking for a good time waster to add to your library can look no farther.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.