By Alex Irish / July 4th, 2018
|Release Date||June 26th, 2018|
|Platform||PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch|
Q Entertainment’s Lumines: Puzzle Fusion was the dark horse champion of the original PSP’s launch. The stylish puzzler mixed with a funky techno rhythm wasn’t a graphical boundary pusher on Sony’s handheld, but it had an addictive quality and its design was tailor-made for the platform. Since then, it’s been around the block on multiple platforms, and now the original classic rises from the PSP’s ashes onto modern platforms in a newly released remastered edition. Creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi wished for players who grew up loving the 2004 original to be able to play it on modern hardware, without being tethered to their ancient PSPs. In short, Lumines Remastered is the definitive way to play the 14-year-old classic.
Lumines‘ design sense rivals that of Tetris, albeit with a different difficulty curve. Simply put, you manipulate 4X4 cubes of color into the field, and matches of four colors form a cube that clears when a long vertical line wipes across the screen. From this, you have opportunities to match multiple colored cubes and make chains for point-rising combos. The ways the falling cubes mix and match colors creates challenge for how you’ll place those blocks, having to consider what matches will clear the space effectively and what block mixture will create clutter.
The continuously thumping musical tunes (identified here as Skins) set the pace, and each skin feels different, offering varied tension and faster-falling blocks against a play session. And yes, all the memorable tunes from 2004 make it here intact, everything from the unforgettable opener Shinin’ to Eri Nobuchika’s sweeping Lights.
In some ways, going back to the original Lumines design feels a bit regressive compared to its sequels. Some of the “quality of life” additions in the sequels, especially PS Vita’s Electronic Symphony, were not folded into this remaster. Chain blocks that clear connecting blocks of one color are back, but Shuffle Blocks and avatar abilities are out. You do have an avatar right off the bat to display, but these lack game-altering abilities, only acting as glorified health bars. Without their ability to cheese the game (like stopping the timeline mid-match), it becomes much more difficult to stay alive longer as blocks progressively stack up. Their presence is sorely missed, as they leveled the playing field for less-skilled players and made the challenge fairer.
Make no mistake: Lumines gets supremely hard when those blocks are stacked screen-high. It’s the kind of puzzler that takes a lifetime to master, if you’re willing to put in the time. When you game over in Challenge Mode, you have to start all over from the beginning. To get to that magical 100 percent mark is difficult enough as it is; having to start from scratch each time just to unlock new skins gets really repetitive.
Lumines Remastered‘s various play modes are self-explanatory. While the bulk of your time will be spent in Challenge Mode, there are other ways to get your Lumines on. Among them, Time Attack has you chasing high scores in the shortest amount of time, Mission Mode offers 50 fighting game-style challenges to solve specific tasks, (Clear the field with two blocks in a specific order, or create a clearing down the middle of a field of blocks.) while Puzzle Mode is arguably the weakest link for newcomers. Trying to form specific shapes with blocks, with a time limit no less, is more irritating and unintuitive than fun. And of course, there’s local-only multiplayer for two players, be it a local friend or CPU opponent. With the competitive hook of expanding your side of the play field with successive combos, multiplayer has a dynamism different from solo play. Unfortunately for some, there is no online multiplayer mode, only online leaderboards.
The presentation of Lumines Remastered outshines the PSP original, and its PS2 port, by a wild margin. The visuals on all platforms are now at a stunning 1080p, making the PSP version look smeared in Vaseline by comparison, while PS4 Pro and Xbox One X get the benefit of running up to an even crisper 4K resolution. The art direction full of trippy neon lights and splashy background animations has never shone brighter. Lumines now runs at a faster 60 frames per second. If you’ve had years of Lumines experience on previous handhelds running at 30 FPS, this increased pace will discombobulate your muscle memory. The myriad of musical tracks are now free of any compression from the PSP’s UMD days, gaining a newfound clarity as though right off the master track. Headphones are a must for this one. Surprisingly, there are the long and frequent load times. You’ll learn to hate these load times when restarting modes of play or navigating menus over and over in a puzzle game such as this one.
As a multiplatform re-release, the Nintendo Switch is undoubtedly the way to play Lumines Remastered. For the first time on a Nintendo platform, the Switch graces your Lumines experience with not only versatility (out-of-the-box multiplayer with the Switch’s included Joy-Con controllers), but also an exclusive Trance Mode. With multiple Joy-Con (up to eight), you can strap them across your person and “feel” the rhythm (in your soul) with the HD Rumble feature. The rhythmic use of HD Rumble is great, adding a fresh and immersive angle to the puzzler. Strangely, despite several past Lumines entries using the touch screen on their respective devices, the Switch version offers no touch controls in its portable mode. Buttons and a D-Pad will always be king for a puzzle game, but it would have been nice to offer the option nonetheless.
If you go into Lumines Remastered expecting a “definitive” experience, you’re going to be disappointed. Without some of the convenient features introduced later in the series, Lumines can be a brutally challenging puzzler. But once you get in the groove, that almost doesn’t matter.
For better or worse, this is the 2004 original but crisper and sharper. Lumines Remastered is a fiendish, stylish, and addictive puzzle game that has held up over the last 14 years, and this re-release makes it easy to see why. Like with Tetris, it’s the kind of puzzle game experience that sucks your mind out and makes you lose track of time. You might just start having the “Tetris effect” compulsions and convulsions herein. For only $14.99, with hours of replay value and a lifetime to practice, Lumines will consume you all over again.
Review Copy Purchased by Author
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