Reviewed: November 28, 2006
Released: November 2, 2006
Sequels are a tricky thing, especially when you are trying to follow-up on one of the more impressive PSP titles of 2005, but with Lumines II the guys at Q Entertainment have managed to deliver a second great puzzle title. Sure, it might not do anything revolutionary that the first one didn’t but it doesn’t have too. Give us that same addictive gameplay and all new music and videos to play along with.
Fans of the original will first notice an extreme facelift for this sequel, and for those who have been playing the Xbox Live Arcade version, you’ll feel right at home since the interface, game modes, and menu style are nearly identical.
The core gameplay is extremely simple and hasn’t really changed in this sequel. At any given time you have a 2x2 cluster of blocks that can be any mix of two possible colors. Your goal is to stack them so that you get four or more connecting blocks in a square pattern (linear doesn’t count). The orientation of the screen is also unique in that it is wider than it is tall – something we normally (if ever) get in a puzzle game like this.
If you stack blocks so that part of the block overhangs the block will break apart and the rest will continue to the lowest possible position. This breakaway feature along with the Mr. Driller style combo chains of falling blocks can create some exciting gameplay moments and even lend itself to some strategy (or random luck) if you can plan far enough ahead.
Another feature that makes for some serious block removal is that from time to time a cluster will fall with a gem embedded in one of the four blocks. If that block becomes part of a cluster that gets removed not only does the initial cluster vanish but any matching colors that are touching, regardless of their pattern, will also disappear. Obviously, when this happens there is usually a massive chain reaction of the opposing color as well.
Of course the big trick with Lumines II (and the original) is timing the falling blocks with the unique style of block removal. As blocks are matched up they turn into a solid mass of color but they do not vanish until a sweeper line moves across the board to dematerialize them. This means that for a few moments you can add to the cluster with more blocks or you could potentially lose the game if you stack too high on blocks that haven’t vanished yet. The pacing of this line is tied into the music so faster music means faster block removal.
The single player game is where you are likely to spend your time but gamers on a time budget can opt for a variety of time limits and see how far they can get. And if you have a favorite song or background you can try the Single Skin mode and see how far you can get with a single theme.
Lumines II offers dozens of levels that increase in complexity and intensity, each with its own musical theme as well as flashy, and often distracting, background screen known as a “skin”. You can tackle these levels in one of several gameplay modes including single player, head-to-head, time attacks, puzzle challenges, and the new mission and sequencer modes.
Much like the original, Lumines II is an interactive video and music making experience, a fact made even more apparent with the new sequence tool that allows you to create your own original music tracks, saving up to 20 of them on your PSP and sharing with your friends via wireless connection. So explore your inner DJ while exploring the depth of this wonderful new mode.
Mission mode is also a cool new addition that offers various challenges built around the core gameplay of Lumines II. You’ll be given various tasks such as solving puzzles in a certain way or within a certain time limit. Last year’s puzzle mode has been expanded and you now get to try and create all sorts of crazy shapes and designs by expertly positioning and removing blocks as they rain from above.
For you math geeks out there, you will revel in the database mode that tracks an insane amount of data including the embarrassing stats like just how much time you’ve spent playing this game. You can check on your unlock progress and even access replays from the Time Attack mode.
The designers have managed to create some even cooler backgrounds than the first game and they perfectly complement the high-energy music and pulsing techno and house tracks This is the underground dance club stuff you would see on video walls in an underground club in Germany or Czechoslovakia with montage style graphics, digital imagery with CG special effect superimposed on them, etc.
Admittedly, there are a few color scheme and vibrant backgrounds that can actually get distracting and cause you to lose focus, but I only count that as a difficulty of the game. Overall, Lumines II is an audio-visual experience as much as it is a game, especially with the inclusion of actual music videos from several of the contributing artists.
The first Lumines delivered a lot of techno and trance tunes with a decisive Japanese flavor, but the sequel brings it home with more familiar tunes from Beck, Black Eyed Peas, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Gwen Stefani, Hoobastank, Missy Elliott, New Order, and many others. These tunes are the perfect backdrop to the simplistic game design and are arranged in such a way that they match the pacing of your gameplay.
The music changes to match the intensity of the gameplay and the sounds effects make sounds that complement the music so you are almost orchestrating your own soundtrack simply by playing the game. You can create synthesized notes and beats to enhance the original song in subtle ways like dropping and rotating blocks. These sound effects change with the theme to match the style of music so they blend in seamlessly.
Lumines II is truly a game without end that will likely outlive your desire to play it. Sure, you can eventually get through all the levels but you will never master them, and therein lies the challenge of going back and trying to best your previous scores.
This is also one of those rare games that could almost be considered therapeutic. You can sit down after a hard day at work (unless your work is playing Lumines II) and chill with some cool tunes and mind-blowing visuals.
The new sequencer and mission modes and the enhanced puzzle mode plus the highly addictive two-player versus mode and even game share support will keep this game in your PSP longer than most.
Lumines II continues in the fine tradition of its predecessor and is one of the best puzzle games on the PSP. Rather than try to improve on the gameplay, the designers simply give us more of the same – a lot more – while adding in a few additional game modes and enhancing the original stuff.
Easy to pick up and impossible to put down, you’ll be totally hooked from the moment you pick this game up until something better comes along. And knowing Q Entertainment, that shouldn’t be too long.