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Lumines: Electronic Symphony (PS Vita) Review

One of the first real hits from the original lineup of PSP games returns for the launch of that console’s successor. Does the PSV version of Lumines offer anything new? Does it even have to?

The long and short is that ‘yes’, it does provide for some new tidbits- but you might not really care because this is basically more of the excellent Lumines puzzling that you loved back on the Playstation Portable. Lumines: Electronic Symphony is so purely enjoyable at it’s base level that even puzzle game haters will find something to like.

It's harder than it looks

If, for some odd reason, you never played the original game (lets forget about the sequel shall we?)- the premise is a simple one. Sets of four blocks, all clumped into one square, drop down from the top of the screen. The challenge lies in rotating those four little bricks into place so you can match them up with others of the same color/type.

There’s really no limit to how big and mal-formed you can make these stacks other than the timer. The clock, such as it is, is embodied by a constantly scrolling line of light that erases the matches you’ve made and in turn builds your score. Much like the king of classic puzzle games Tetris, if you let the towers of mis-matched blocks scrape the tippy top of the PSV’s screen- you lose.

It is an extremely simple mechanic that has been around for a while, but what makes Lumines different is that this game matches up the gameplay with absolutely beautiful graphical eye candy, and a set list of ‘ear candy’ to match. The fully licensed soundtrack not only keeps up with the action on screen, but is a part of it. Sound effects are triggered by almost everything you do.

Rotate some blocks and you’ll hear an audio cue. Slide them across the screen and you’ll get an aural treat too. If you start doing enough of this (and you will) you can actually get a solid accompaniment to the main track going. It’s more than possible to get a little lost too and start making your own ‘tracks’… that kinda screws up the game you’re supposed to be playing though. Remember we’re not just making beautiful music here- there’s puzzle solving to be done.

Stack as many sets of 4 as you can for huge bonuses

And on that front, while it was extremely difficult to find any fault with the Lumines formula to begin with- Electronic Symphony actually adds to that perfection. All the core gameplay functionality is the same (that’s a good thing) but added to it are little alterations like blocks that can swap around all the bricks on the screen and the new special abilities that the Avatars bring to the table.

Color change can really throw you sometimes

Avatar’s you ask? Remember those little cartoony faces that you could pick as avatar in the original game? Not only are they back, but now they each have a pair of unique abilities- one for single and one for multiplay. They vary greatly by what character you pick (and there are a bunch that can be unlocked) but just to give you an example- one can stop the clearing line for a time so that you can create more matches, one can make the next block into a palate swapper… get the idea?

These are not major varitions to the regular control scheme, and they don’t have to be. In fact, if they were they might have messed too much with the core of what makes Lumines fun and that would have been a travesty. As long as we’re chatting about control schemes, I might as well mention something that is entirely new (and totally optional)- and that’s the touch controls.

Ah, the Lumines constellation

It is, in theory, entirely possible to play Lumines: Electronic Symphony via iOS-like touch controls on the Vita’s touch screen. Does it work? Not really. You see the issue isn’t so much that the input doesn’t work or that it’s laggy or anything- it’s that it’s just way too hard to manage. I don’t know whether it’s just from lack of experience with it or if it’s genuinely that hard to use, but I felt like I was seconds away from disaster pretty much all the time I was trying it out. I went back to the physical buttons very quickly and that ended that.

Other than the standard Voyage (neverending) mode, the game also includes the ‘Duel’ multiplayer mode, a stopwatch mode, custom playlist (my fave), and master mode. Master gives you no assists from an Avatar and ramps up the difficulty pretty quickly while counting your block cleared progress. As you clear the pre-set amount of blocks, you move onto the next ‘stage’ – it’s divided into segments but it plays seamlessly without interruption. All the modes are fun to play around with and will more than likely eat up a cosiderable amount of your time. Lumines has a knack for that.

Final Thoughts

Did you like Lumines on the PSP? Then you’ll love this. Do you enjoy puzzle games of any kind? Then you’ll love this. Hell, even if you just like videogames period, you’ll probably (at the very least) like Lumines: Electronic Symphony. It’s a terrific game that can pretty much capture the mind of anybody who enjoys pretty lights and sounds.

Either as a pick up and play type experience, or as something to dive into as lengthy gaming session- Lumines just works. Even if you hate electronica as a musical form (which I’m pretty close to), I feel confident in saying that Lumines will fit your groove just fine.

About Jason

Jason's been knee deep in videogames since he was but a lad. Cutting his teeth on the pixely glory that was the Atari 2600, he's been hack'n'slashing and shoot'em'uping ever since. Mainly an FPS and action guy, Jason enjoys the occasional well crafted title from every genre.

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