Mar 5, 2012

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Lumines Electronic Symphony Review

Lumines Electronic Symphony Review

Lumines Electronic Symphony is the game you want to have for your new PlayStation Vita. On the surface it seems like the same game we’ve been playing since 2005, but a few teaks give gamers a fresh take on the classic puzzler. Q Entertainment blends simple puzzle mechanics with fantastic art style and music in such a way that every aspect compliments the other. Lumines Electronic Symphony is a great example of a puzzler where when everything is on-point you won’t be able to stop playing, even if it is just playing the same mode over and over again.

The gameplay of Electronic Symphony (ES) remains virtually unchanged, and unlike with HSG: World Invitational, puzzle games don’t require any new innovations to still be considered great. The core mechanics remain the same. Your goal is to match colored blocks (four squares with up to two different colors) that are dropping form the top of the screen. By rotating the squares and moving them from left to right, you try to match as many of the same color creating one square block of one color. Scrolling from left to right is a timeline that erases matching block clusters, and this is how you score points. A list of upcoming blocks displays on the left, adding to the strategy of the game.

While Q Entertainment didn’t change the core gameplay, they did add a few new elements that keeps the classic puzzler fresh. One of the new additions to the Lumines gameplay is the Shuffle Block. This block will randomly appear, and as soon as it hits a group of blocks, it will shuffle all the squares. Sometimes this can be a good thing, since it can create matched blocks and help clear a big stack of blocks at once. Other times it can cause you to lose a set of blocks that you have strategically placed, or simply mix things up so drastically that you can’t clear any blocks. This new block really makes you change the way you have to play and take some time to think about what you want to do with it when it comes up. The Shuffle Block adds to chaos, but in a good way, and makes the game just that much more exciting.

The other addition is the Avatar Powers. Avatars have been a part of Lumines in the past, but now they have powers associated with them that can help you increase your score or save your game. Each Avatar has two powers, one for single player and the other for multiplayer use.  For example, Rex, a dinosaur Avatar, has a Chain Reaction ability (that changes the next block to a chain block) for single player, and a Vortex ability (that randomizes your opponent’s block rotation direction) for multiplayer. These powers have unlimited use and are activated by touching the Avatar on left side of the screen; however, they need to be recharged between uses. To do that, you can let it recharge on its own via bonus points or continuously tap the back touch pad. The addition of Avatar powers helps you get through tough situations and also increases your score quite a bit. The Avatar powers bring a new level of strategy to Lumines, and gamers can experiment to find which one fits best their play style.

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Obviously, the big appeal of this game is the combination of great music, art style, and puzzling that comes together so well that removing one aspect of this equation would give you a completely different experience. With Lumines Electronic Symphony, the selection of music and its integration with the movements of the puzzle pieces is so good that you almost forget you’re playing a puzzle game and not a music game. I’m not the biggest fan of electronic or house music, but the track selection is really good. I’m not going to go out and buy “Good Girl” by Benny Benassi, but listening to this track and others in short intervals is perfect. Adding to the stellar music is the great presentation. The colorful blocks and artistic backdrops bring everything together and fully immerse you into this electronic trance. I never found these “skins” to be distracting at all because the art style compliments the blocks and music so well.

In terms of game modes, ES doesn’t have too much to offer. There’s the standard time-trail modes (StopWatch), Duel (local ad-hoc multiplayer), Master, Playlist and Voyage. Master is a challenge mode of sorts, where you will have to clear a set number of blocks to move onto the next stage. This mode is quite difficult and doesn’t allow you to use your Avatar powers. Playlist allows you to select from all the tracks and skins in the game to basically create your own level. It uses a very intuitive cover-flow style to mix and match the songs and you can chose to simply play till the end of songs you selected or play until you lose. This is a great way to escape the songs you don’t enjoy at all or to create a short level of three to four songs for those times when you just want a quick match.

Voyage is the heart of the game. This is the marathon mode where you simply jump in and play until you lose. Though you will always hear the same sequence of songs from beginning to end, every time I started a Voyage I simply couldn’t stop playing. That’s when I knew ES was a great game. At times I would be skeptical of starting a Voyage because I didn’t like a song or two at the beginning, but after playing for a few minutes I got instantly sucked into the game and couldn’t put it down. A good puzzler doesn’t need too many modes, it just has to be fun enough that you don’t want to stop playing the marathon mode.

A nice reason to keep playing is the RPG aspect of gaining XP to unlock new items (avatars, skins, tracks), but competing on a leaderboard is a nice incentive as well. Your friends’ scores will always show up in every mode and on the menu screen, giving you a nice sense of interactivity. There’s also near features that allow you to gift Avatars to random PS Vita users.

ES offers a few different control schemes to play with (as seen in the video above). You can use only the touch screen (similar to the iPhone version of Lumines) to rotate your block and move it from left to right, but once things speed up the touch screen isn’t accurate or fast enough to keep up. You can use the shoulder buttons or the face buttons to rotate the blocks as well. I use the shoulder buttons simply for comfort. Navigating the menu screens is easier with the touch screen and having the option for touch screen controls is nice, but it’s very similar to how the iPhone version works and presents the same issues as well. Hopefully with another iteration Q Entertainment can find a nice way to incorporate the touch screen.

Electronic Symphony doesn’t innovate in ways that change the genre, but it is the best Lumines title in the franchise. I almost wish that we saw a Meteos title on the PlayStation Vita, since I favored that game over Lumines, but ES is so good I can’t imagine not having it on my Vita. The only real drawback is the lack of online multiplayer, making some of the Avatars obsolete. I would have loved to have multiplayer, especially with the Vita’s 3G ability. Outside of that, Lumines Electronic Symphony is a great puzzler and a must buy. The presentation is great, the music is amazing, and unless you feel uncomfortable using headphones or would rather not play with the sound on, then I don’t see a reason not to pick this game up.

Lumines Electronic Symphony
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Genre: Puzzle
Release Date: 02/14/12
Developer: Q Entertainment
Publisher: Ubisoft
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
MSRP: $39.99


Second Opinion – Kyle Prahl

Electronic Symphony is the real deal, a game that fuses the addictive block-building of Tetris with fantastic audio and visuals to take you through a synesthetic journey like no other. Whether you have five minutes or five hours to spare, a different mode is always ready for you. Lumines looks and plays like a dream, but certain skins will push your motor skills and cognitive abilities to their limits. As with Super Stardust Delta, leaderboards and high scores (daily, weekly, and all-time) for every mode will keep you playing for a long time. And play you shall, for at the heart of Lumines is the deepest and most addicting puzzle game in ages. If I have one negative thing to say, it’s that your game level (which, in RPG fashion, rises as you accumulate points across different modes) feels artificial and is only used as a means for unlocking new avatars, which don’t differ greatly from one another. Still, when that’s the only complaint I can leverage against Lumines, you know you’ve got something special.


[Video Source: IGN]