Creating a puzzle game that can stand the test of time is not easy to do. With the glorious exception of Tetris and the Bust-A-Move series, you’d be hard pressed to find a parlor puzzle game that any casual or hardcore player can involve themselves in that’ll last 10 or 15 years. While the Lumines series is relatively new, it’s repositioning of the block-setting puzzle game, and its involvement of popular music fits right in with today’s culture while appealing to gamers of all ages and persuasions. Simply put, Lumines II is easily the best puzzle game on the PSP, and maybe the most addictive since Tetris.
The premise of the game is amazingly simple yet wholesomely addictive, similar to Tetris, you have pieces composed of four blocks. Instead of being in multiple shapes they are all in two-by-two squares of two varying colors and your job is to rotate and align them on the board making bigger squares and rectangles to clear the completed blocks off the screen each time a bar makes its way by. Sounds simple enough, but as you start to play the strategy game, and the speed increases, you’ll need quick thinking and reflexes to place the blocks in the correct spaces.
Making things more interesting and easier are the special blocks (denoted in-game with a pulsating plus sign) that will clear all connected blocks of that color when you clear a larger block containing it. It wouldn’t be surprising to see half the game board clear and collapse as a color is almost completely wiped off the map. This bestows you with a major chain reaction which ups your score with multipliers and makes your dancing avatar very happy.
The game has a variety of single player modes including the challenge mode, clocking in at three different difficulties. After doing this the Enduro mode is opened up presenting a much bigger Lumines II challenge. Skin Edit mode allows you to set up any of the skins (the in-game name for a song/color combination) in the order you choose to listen to your favorite tracks. This mode doesn’t really become very useful until you have unlocked a majority of the tracks as early on you’ll have a very limited number of skins to choose from. Lumines II also offers a versus CPU, time attack, puzzle, and mission modes.
One of the biggest disappointments is the lack of online infrastructure play, with the game being limited to Ad Hoc only. In the age of online gaming where services like Xbox Live reign over the landscape more and more companies seem to be either jumping on the bandwagon or dodging its path. Whether it was time limitations in getting the sequel to the market, Q? Entertainment chose not to include a standard online mode leaving us owners of the game hunting around for other PSP owners to get our PvP fix. On the upside, Lumines II does support game sharing, should you find another PSP owner without a copy of the game.
Finally, the Sequencer is interesting in itself because it presents the player with a mini-beatbox of sorts allowing you to create your own music to use inside the game. The sequencer is surprisingly robust allowing you to really delve into what feels like a lite version of the popular Fruity Loops, but still presents the player or aspiring DJ some quality time.
Besides the gameplay, the game’s may draw is its selection of musical numbers including Gwen Stefani, The Chemical Brothers, and Black Eyed Peas as well as a small collection of bands you’ve never even heard of. Each song has a particular skin to go along with it, different colored blocks, background animations (including music videos in some instances) as a way of keeping the game fresh after extended play times.
It’s hard not to love this game as it is perfectly suited for the handheld world, and the PSP’s large widescreen LCD and music capabilities make it the optimum choice for gamers. The soundtrack may pique your interest, but the gameplay will hook you for hours at a time as you try for that one, dramatic explosion of blocks that cleans the entire slate. The budget price is inviting, and even though the lack of online play is a major disappointment, it shouldn’t keep you from enjoying this genuinely fun game.