When the Playstation Vita’s launch titles were first unveiled a lot of focus was placed on the more hardcore first party titles such as Uncharted and Wipeout, but one title that caught out eye was Lumines Electronic Symphony from Q Entertainment.
We’re big admirers of Q Entertaimnet’s games, from the Dreamcast classic Rez to (arguably the best Kinect game to date) Child of Eden, so when we saw that they were making a new entry in their addictive puzzler series Lumines we became that much more excited for the Vita’s launch.
Rather than being a fully fledged sequel to Lumies, which coincidentally was a PSP launch title, Lumines Electronic Symphony is a more like greatest hits collection with a few new ideas thrown in for good measure. For those new to the series it can essentially be summed up as an abstract electronica-fused version of Tetris.
First, the basics: There are two-coloured square blocks made up of four bricks that fall from the top of the screen, and (much like Tetris) you have to arrange them so that square blocks of a single colour build up. Rather than disappearing immediately, as they would in other similar games, these squares only fade away when a timeline reaches them, resulting in any blocks higher up falling down. This adds an extra tactical element to the game as you cannot get away with just throwing blocks down freely, as once the blocks pile up to the top of the screen the game is over.
Rather than offering up individual stages to play through there are a dozens skins to master. Each skin dictates the appearance and soundtrack of the board, leading to a great deal of variety in terms of colour and sound. As you complete one skin it seamlessly transitions to the next, making for a really smooth gameplay experience. Anyone that has played any of Q Entertainment’s other games will know what to expect visually from the skins – bright neon colours and abstract images that represent the theme of the music that is playing. Overall it is a beautiful experience, even if it is a little basic graphically.
The biggest addition is a points-based levelling up system, earning you new skins, tracks, and avatars. The avatars act as rechargeable power ups that can be used in both single player and multiplayer, ranging from from speeding up the rate at which your opponent’s blocks fall to turning your next block into a solid block of colour. Once used the Avatar has a set cool down period, meaning that you cannot spam your opponent or abuse its power in single player.
Speaking of multiplayer, one disappointment is that this game only supports local multiplayer, with no online multiplayer to speak of. While there is no online multiplayer there that doesn’t mean that the game is without any online functionality. Your friends details are posted on the game’s main menu, filling you in on their progress, which goes some way towards building up a sense of competition.
The best online feature is called the World Block, a vast community challenge in the form of a gigantic cube consisting of some two million blocks. Whenever anyone plays the game and destroys blocks while connected to the internet it will remove the same number of block from the World Block. Once all two million blocks have been destroyed all players that contributed to its demise earn a significant experience bonus.
As for the rest of the game, well, there isn’t really a massive amount of content. There are a selection of timed modes, a more challenging Master mode, and Playlist mode in which you pick the tracks you want to listen to while playing. This isn’t a massive issue as the main Voyage mode is so engrossing and enjoyable that it makes other modes feel a little superfluous.
While this version of Lumines does have touch screen controls they don’t feel any way near as intuitive or as efficient to use as the buttons. Other Vita specific features include the ability to use the console’s Near functionality to share unlockables with friends through bluetooth. It would’ve been nice to share content with other users online, as you can do with other Vita games, but it isn’t the end of the world.
Graphics: 4/5 – Brightly coloured, basic, but utterly beautiful.
Sound: 4/5 – A great soundtrack with some simple sound effects. Easy listening at its finest.
Gameplay: 4/5 – While there aren’t an abundance of modes to play through what there is is addictive and fun. You can play it in short bursts or for long periods of time, making it an idea portable game.
Longevity: 2/5 – The main Voyage mode is infinitely replayable, but it is a shame that there aren’t any online multiplayer modes. Bonus modes, including a Master mode and timed modes, feel a little superfluous.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5
Anyone looking for a compelling puzzle game that can be played for long periods of time as well as short bursts should give Lumines Electronic Symphony a spin. While it is a little disappointing that the game doesn’t utilise more of the Vita’s features, such as online play, and is a little light on content, the overall experience is a lot of fun and can be played by anybody, not just hardcore gamers.