Even if you haven’t played Lumines, you probably know a lot about it. For instance, you’ve probably heard that its impact to a player’s PSP library was analogous to Tetris on the Game Boy. Or perhaps, you’ve heard about its designer, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, and his increasing penchant for creating trippy and synesthetic experiences. Well that’s me – I’ve heard all these things and I’ve even given Lumines a try, but I never managed to go headlong into a true session, much less get halfway decent at the game. In finally learning how to play Lumines, I realized why I waited so long. As a lifelong Tetris fan, I’ve had to uncoil the parts of my brain that made any other falling block game look like Braille. This is about my journey to feel competent at Lumines.
LUMINES REMASTERED is the entry in question. It’s an HD remake of the original Lumines for PSP. While it would be nice to have high definition visuals of Vita’s Lumines: Electronic Symphony, I welcome the more simplistic gameplay of the original. No need to worry about chain blocks, shuffle blocks or avatar abilities. Just the basics: you can move or rotate a 2x2 block until it’s placed on the playfield; each cell in the block can only be 1 of 2 colors; meanwhile a line sweeps across the field, scanning for and clearing 2x2 areas of the same color. These clearable squares are allowed to overlap (e.g. a 3x2 area of one color counts as 2 squares). Finally, once a cell is cleared, any cells above it will fall to occupy the newly emptied space.
This gameplay is the meat and potatoes of the Challenge mode. I also want to address the Time Attack, Puzzle, and Mission modes since they all fed into each other in a “deliberate practice” sort of way. This was perfect for me – a novice that wanted to up their game quickly.
Time Attack isolates speed as an area of improvement. How many clears can you get in 60, 180 or 300 seconds? Puzzle mode asks you to make weird shapes. For me, this gave me better confidence in my ability to manipulate blocks into a desired format. Mission mode acts as an extension to the tutorial. It has 50 short objectives that will help you learn some tricks of the trade if you can manage to complete them. These can get pretty tough, so I did enlist the help of some YouTube videos, so I could learn the lesson and unlock the next set. Together, these allowed me to hone specific toolsets and be better suited for the general Challenge mode, where I could put my skills to the test.
These modes made LUMINES REMASTERED a great entry point for a newbie to the series. Conversely, I’m sure a proficient player would be content with quickly doing well enough in the Basic Challenge mode to unlock Shuffle and Endless – modes that would be more suited to those same experts. The former shuffles the playlist of music and skins for its session. And the latter is just as it sounds – play forever. I never got good enough to unlock Endless, myself. I was pretty proud however, of the fact that I started by struggling to make it to level 10 (of 100) in Basic, but am now reaching 30 comfortably and continuing to improve.
Enjoying this review copy as much as I was, I went ahead and bought it on the Switch. Here I noticed some minor but, nagging issues. Control options were limited and I couldn’t use analog stick to shift the falling blocks in handheld mode. Also in handheld mode, the framerate would sometimes drop; especially in the transition to a new skin. This would be particularly frustrating if it ate an input just before I placed a piece. This caused me to look at the PC version more closely where I then noticed occasional screen tearing, a locked 720p resolution and a lack of mouse controls for the menu. Granted, I didn’t notice these until closer inspection, but it’s a bit frustrating nonetheless. My final nagging complaint is the load times, particularly between objectives in Puzzle and Mission mode. The levels are designed to last under a minute so it was a pain to endure even short load times between them.
Even with my complaints, I’m happy with my purchase and can wholeheartedly recommend this game. It’s a pleasure to fire up LUMINES REMASTERED and lose myself to its trance-inducing gameplay. Furthermore, the robust set of modes should be enough to please rookie and veteran players alike. As I write this, my 5 year old son is playing it for the first time literally ooh-ing and aah-ing to himself. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to hit level 40. This will likely be a daily play for me. At least until Tetris Effect drops.