If you've been keeping track, then you probably knew this was coming. =)
I am hopelessly addicted to playing Lumines on Sony's new PSP. There is really nothing else available for the handheld that I am all that interested in. Many of the games released so far are smaller versions of games already available for the PS2, games that would benefit from being played on a much larger screen. However, the types of games that do work exceptionally well on handhelds are puzzle and arcade games, and Lumines is one of the best puzzle games to come along in a very, very long time. The game was created by Q? Entertainment in Japan.
The object of Lumines is to drop quads—blocks containing four (4) tiles of two possible colors in a random configuration—onto a widescreen sized play field to form combos.
Combos consist of at least one 2x2 quad of same-color tiles. Once a combo is formed, it is highlighted and stays on the board until the timeline sweeps past.
Additional quads can then be formed by adding as few as two additional same-color tiles to the combo. The score increases for each additional quad that is formed before the timeline sweeps them all away. A multiplier bonus is awarded for combos consisting of 4 or more quads in a single pass of the timeline.
Lumines is a classic in the making. It has qualities that set it apart from other puzzle games and that put it squarely in the same league as the venerable Tetris—the mother-of-all falling block puzzle games.
First off, the game is very easy to pick up and play. Anyone can drop blocks and match quads. The sounds and particle effects that reward you for your early efforts are extremely gratifying and hook you into this very addictive game.
Second, the game is difficult to master. Even after playing through several battery recharges with the game, my high score is still less than 100K, and yet it is consistently inching upward. And don't even get me started on the Vs. CPU mode that kicks my ass everytime I play. I've made it to only level 5 of 10 total. The unlockables are HARD as you get further into the game, thereby providing excellent replay value.
Third, the challenge mode is brilliant with its ever changing skins, music, and strategies required. By independently varying both the rate of the falling blocks AND the rate at which the timeline passes, the designers have created a game with unbelievable richness and depth of gameplay.
I can't stop playing this game. There are a total of 40 gorgeous skins to unlock, and each one consists of a unique background design and color scheme for the quad tiles. The visual effects are spectacular, and with each new skin comes an entirely different mood. But the visuals are only part of what makes Lumines so compelling.
The music is infectious, and I am already craving a soundtrack CD with the best tracks to listen to when not playing the game. Featured artists in the game are Shinichi Osawa (Mondo Grosso) and Eri Nobuchika, responsible for the unforgettable rhythms of: Shake Ya Body, I hear the Music in My Soul, and the lead-off track, Shinin'.
Complementary to the soundtrack, sound effect samples are introduced with each button press and combo, which together seamlessly mix with the music. The result is a level of immersion I have never experienced before in a puzzle game.
I am looking forward to Q? Entertainment's next puzzle outing, Meteos, coming out for the Nintendo DS in June.