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Developer: Q Entertainment | Publisher: Ubisoft
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 03/22/05 | Genre: Puzzle

Tetsuya Mizuguchi is one of the great game developers we have, and has been making some of the best puzzle games for sometime now. His games link music and gameplay to an extent that they almost seem fused together. Just look to REZ and Space Channel five as his past achievement to understand where I'm coming from.

Lumines shares quite a bit with REZ, (for those of you who never played -- shame on you..) REZ is a game where sight becomes sound. Gliding on a pulse of ambient noise; zapping to the beat and becoming entranced; sound becoming light, light becoming sound. Lumines mixes this with a dash of Tetris, puyo puyo, and Puzzle Fighter but the concept is simple: square tiles drop from the top of the screen. Each tile is a comprised of four small blocks. Each block can be one of two colors, initially orange and silver. A simple piece of deduction will tell you there are six patters that the tile can have. The blocks within the tiles can be ro-tated, and your job is to make a tile of four blocks where each block is the same color: a difficult game to describe, but one that's easy to comprehend when play-ing.

Lumines remixes its funk to a different BPM compared to other puzzlers, this is with A 씩mebarThe Timebar scans across the screen from left to right, periodi-cally and in time with the levels music. Any matched colors will be collected and deleted by this bar in a sparking, fiery dust flash that's extremely satisfying. As tiles with matched colors aren't deleted until the bar reappears and deletes them you have a chance to stack large connections of blocks, this opens up combo potential, with larger stacks giving higher points. Once a tile of four colors has been created, adding two or more of the same color will increase the stack as well, meaning fast reactions and a good eye for pattern are vital for high scoring. As a wildcard, certain blocks are dotted in the centre; when these are incorpo-rated into a four of the same color, any blocks touching this stack will also be de-leted by the Timebar - even single blocks - this is a godsend for sloppy players leaving individual blocks on the screen.

The meat of the game falls into the single player Challenge Mode. Set against various skins that serve as a backdrop to the action (and change as you progress through the game), the idea is to combo your way through the game and unlock that levels skin. In the 떳' option, reducing the play area on the opponent's side of the screen is the aim, but is achieved the same way as in Challenge: create matching tiles and combo the stacks. The more tiles you match, the narrower your opponent's playing field will become. The games main reward for paying the CPU is unlocking each levels player ICON and skin that you can then play in the main game.

Unlocking new skins is the greatest, most enjoyable part of Lumines. Mizugchi's creations appeal due to their uniquely sharp and enticing design, characterized by a keen blend of the retro and modern audio and visual effects. The play area is a grid, set atop the background skin. The skins pulse with effects and anima-tions, in time to the beat. Moving your tiles and rotating them produces snare ef-fects or little plosive sounds in a similar fashion to REZ, making the whole be-come thematically tied-together. For example, the 쓨inin'tage is comprised of a space backdrop, with an orbiting space station firing laser beams into the dark-ness of the void, whilst an ever changing planet revolves in the near-distance. Accompanied by a track by Mondo Grosso, a mellow techno vibe is layer: all the music in this game is amazing!

The following skin, 앲banizationis much more basic, backed by a stark elec-tropop track reminiscent of Ladytron. On it goes, each skin with a different beat and style, meaning the intelligent incentive to have ì ªust one more try ....î ?long with the backbone of the Challenge and Vs modes, a few other options are available. There's a very tough puzzle mode (where the CPU chooses a shape, and you attempt to recreate this object onscreen using the blocks), a timed game, and a single skin game (where any collection backdrop can be played without change). Lumines is the PSP's Tetris killer, and is ideal for short bursts. Its fun and eye-catching without being too graphically heavy, this means the game isn't constantly pulling data from the UMD, so load times are few, and the battery's life is substantially higher then most launch titles.

Really... Lumines adds an element of real panache to a genre not particularly re-nowned for its beauty, and is very compelling. But my criticisms are this. The game is very Linear in the way that it is play 쳫in Ao 쳫in Bnd etc. So, if you have a level that you can't seem to pass your going to get knocked back to, pardon the pun... Square One.

Also the game can get a bit annoying in the way that I wish the skins should, perhaps, change at a faster rate so that a musical track isn't repeated two of three times before being skipped. Other than that, Lumines deserves a great deal of credit: it's a stylish and remarkably addictive title that blends gameplay with relaxing tunes, and fits perfectly on the PSP.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 03/28/05

Screenshots for Lumines

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