Previews// Lumines: Electronic Symphony

Posted 8 Feb 2012 17:48 by
Blocks. Moving, arranging, matching, disappearing blocks. Thereís something strangely addictive about them, particularly in a portable video game. Indeed, a portable console is only worth considering at all if it has a block-based puzzler in its launch lineup. Enter Q? Entertainment and Ubisoft to save Sonyís bacon here then, as they present a new entry in the Lumines franchise just for the PlayStation Vita.

Created by the musically-inclined genius of Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Lumines debuted on the PSP way back in 2004 before seeing versions arrive on multiple platforms, including XBLA and PlayStation Network. It stood out from the rest of the puzzler crowd due to its emphasis on chilled, exotic sound production and fantastic artistic presentation.

Electronic Symphony isnít just a port of its predecessors - Mizuguchi is heavily involved in the gameís development, and this has brought along some extra bits and pieces that take advantage of the Vita. Mostly it boils down to a selection of brand new tracks, some funky new visuals and some touch screen control mechanics.

Lumines is played by dropping blocks of four differently-coloured squares into a grid, arranging them so that squares of the same colour are touching one another. If you manage to create a 2x2 block featuring squares of the same colour, it will disappear once a timeline (which runs to the rhythm of the background music) bar sweeps over it. You can rack up a high score by creating larger blocks of the same colour inbetween timeline passes.

To keep the experience fresh, Lumines has a variety of different Ďskinsí that swap over after triggering various events. The soundtrack will dynamically change to your block-busting antics and will transform with the background to a different track once a new skin is loaded in. The timeline bar will move across the grid at a modified pace to suit the tempo of the new soundtrack - meaning that some stages will be harder to rack up points than others.

Electronic Symphony, after just a quick playthrough, is already more compelling than any previous Lumines title before it. The Vitaís OLED screen really draws out the vivid colours of the skins, and the sound direction really adds impact to your gameplay experience. Q? has said that it wants to Ďtell a story through sound,í and as such the tracklist - which is comprised of artists like Underworld, Orbital, Mylo, Aphex Twin and Faithless - has been arranged so that you can play through a non-stop 140BPM megamix if you so wanted.

Itís admirable that Q? decided to try the touch capabilities of the Vita hardware too - if you wanted to get arty farty about it, it allows the player to immerse themselves even further into the hi-spec audio-visual experience. By dragging falling blocks around you can position them on the grid, while tapping them will rotate the squares within them. In gameplay terms, itís an interesting feature but ultimately youíre better off sticking with button controls.

Along with a myriad of different modes (which I hadnít the opportunity to try due to requiring a PlayStation Network connection for the most part), Lumines: Electronic Symphony also comes complete with a level system that rewards you for score-racking performances.

Quite what this will amount to - unlockable bonus content perhaps - Iím not sure yet, but even if it did absolutely nothing it doesnít really matter. The content Iíve seen so far re-affirms Tetsuya Mizuguchiís impeccable music taste and production - this looks like it is going to be a perfect companion to your PlayStation Vita when it launches later this month.

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