Lumines is a superb fanmade PC translation of a hit Sony PSP game of the same name that many are already calling the best game ever made for that portable console. One of the best Tetris-style games ever made, the PSP version of Lumines is a unique combination of puzzle and music. The puzzle part requires you to match one color at a time on 2x2 squares out of just two possible colors. This means there are only 6 total combinations of falling blocks to deal with, and unlike Tetris, all of them will fit nicely with each other without creating ugly gaps. (Squares split and fall if half of the block is placed on a ledge.)
Two simple but innovative elements help transform Lumines into a modern classic. The first - a quite common feature in falling-block games - is the "special gem" that may be found in any of the four corners of the falling squares. If you can use this gem to begin your combo, every similarly-colored brick adjacenet to that block or another block connected to it will also be counted in your combo.
Lumines's head designer is one Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who is famous for fusing 'artistic' elements such as lights and sounds into such gaming gems as Rez and Space Channel 5. In Lumines, that fusion comes in the form of catchy background tunes, and a "musical staff bar" that sweeps across the puzzle field synchronously with the music. Your combos will only be counted and cleared when the bar makes its pass, which make the music an integral part of the play. This means that when slow tunes are playing, you may have a hard time filling up the puzzle well, but you will also have much more time to build huge combos; on the other hand, fast tunes make the bar sweep all your combos away as fast as you can piece them together, but you can also use the hectic pace to your advantage to clear unmatched pieces. The challenge is not to just build square-shaped combos, but strings of like-colored combos across the length of the staff bar's sweep.
This fanmade PC version by a Japanese programmer is very faithful to the PSP original. Although only 2 of the PSP's 4 play modes are present (single player, and multi-player against CPU), the excellent gameplay and the ability to use your own music and graphics (put them in the "skins" directory of the game) makes Lumines a fun and welcome addition to every puzzle fan's library - especially those of us who are not yet tempted to go buy the PSP ;) Highly recommended!
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