The ultimate form of this iconic but underplayed puzzler.
There’s a reason Nintendo’s Game Boy console was so popular – and it’s not because of a certain plumber or an elven hero in green. It’s a little puzzle game called Tetris, which remains to this day the best selling video game of all time, still topping more recent successes like Minecraft and GTA V. The block-dropping game became the template for puzzle games – a simple premise that’s endlessly addictive.
In 2004, Q Entertainment and producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi released Lumines: Puzzle Fusion as a launch game for Sony’s PSP console. Lumines was to the PSP what Tetris was to the Game Boy: the standout puzzle game. Yet due to the comparatively minimal sales of the console, Lumines didn’t quite reach the audience it deserved, despite a number of sequels.
That’s where Lumines Remastered comes in. Released across PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Windows, this remaster of the original game should see its popularity soar.
Its game mechanics are simple. Dual-coloured blocks fall from the top of the screen in a variety of formations to be placed or split on top of those below. Create a 2 x 2 block of the same colour to make it disappear. Layer up your blocks and they’ll vanish in an extended combo, raising that all-important high score.
Yet there’s an audio-visual twist that gives Lumines its raison d’être. There’s a bar that constantly moves across the screen in time with the background music – it’s this bar that causes the blocks to disappear. So not only do you have to strategically consider your block placement, you need to time it with the music. It’s a clever twist on a simple concept, with a variety of ‘skins’ changing both the music and the visual style to keep it fresh. Nevertheless, it’s all too easy to get into a mesmeric state – the Lumines Effect is just as strong as the Tetris Effect, where those falling blocks begin to interrupt vision, thoughts and dreams.
The visuals are clean and crisp on the big screen of a TV, but more importantly the music is fun and infectious. It ranges from funky guitar jams to pulsing electronica, blissful pop and more, with aesthetics to match. Skin Edit mode allows you to create a playlist of your favourites to help get into the groove.
Q Entertainment get plenty of mileage out of their premise. In the basic challenge mode you cycle through skins in a set order to reach level 100 and best your high score, with Endless and Shuffle versions too. Time Attack gives you a time limit to hit a high score and Vs CPU sees you battling the computer for control over the play area. A 2P battle offers the same with a human opponent in local multiplayer – sadly there’s no online mode here.
Perhaps best and most intriguing of all are the Puzzle and Mission modes. The latter tasks you with completing specific objectives like clearing a stage in a set number of moves or erasing a certain number of blocks, while the former challenges you to create specific shapes with the blocks. Not only do these modes broaden the experience and open your eyes to new ways of combining blocks to aid your Challenge mode strategies, but by showing you the puzzle beforehand it allows you to take a breath and think without a time constraint.
No matter which mode you choose, though, Lumines is really, really hard. It’s all too easy to drop a block in the wrong place and screw up your run and in battle the CPU is aggressive to the extreme. It ensures there’s plenty of value and depth to this puzzle game, as addictive as its basic premise may be.
It does feel strange, however, playing the game on console (PS4). Puzzle games are perfect for portable consoles as short experiences you can dip in and out of on the go. Tied to a TV and Lumines competes for your attention with longer quests, complex adventures and more graphically impressive experiences. Of the new consoles, playing on the Switch seems like the ideal format.
There are a few tweaks to the original in this remaster: Mission mode is taken from the original game’s sequel and Puzzle mode is expanded upon, and brand new rumble options that truly cement the Switch version as the one to play.
Whichever console you own or mode you select, though, Lumines Remastered offers the opportunity to play an iconic puzzle game if you missed it the first time round. Now, there are no excuses.