Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Lumines II
(Q? Entertainment for Sony PSP)

Following up the popular PSP puzzle title, Buena Vista and Q? Entertainment have released the solidly entertaining Lumines II. The game offers more of the same addictive puzzles players have come to expect with additional modes of play for multiplayer modes and a more pop-oriented soundtrack. There are also new customization modes that allow you to edit and save your own skins, soundtracks and other options. Disappointingly, Lumines II doesn't diverge too far from the established formula but, it's still a decent game that offers addictive play mechanics and hip beats.

Lumines was one of the surprising 'cult' hits of the PSP's launch that offered solid puzzle gameplay mechanics and a unique techno/rave presentation with driving music that made it one of the more addictive and challenging titles at launch. While there are many new features and game modes included in the sequel, Lumines II doesn't change the basic elements that made the first game so successful. The basic premise remains true to its roots. Underneath the hip graphics and driving soundtrack, this is basically a traditional falling block-puzzle game where you have to align falling boxes in groups to erase them. Each of the game's falling blocks consists of two colors (these change depending on the skin) which fall from the top of your console. When they reach the bottom, you need to create a 4X4 square of the same color to make them disappear. However, this doesn't happen automatically and only occurs when the cursor that scrolls from left to right moves over that section of the game board, acting as a kind of metronome that keeps the game's rhythm constant. This helps to increase the challenge and gives the Lumines II a different pace than most other puzzlers. When you complete a box, it disappears from the screen, making any tiles above fall down which causes a chain reaction. Achieving these moments is tricky, but this can be used to create multiple combos consisting of larger objects, which clears large areas of the screen and results in a ton of bonus points. As is typical of these types of games, the blocks start falling slowly but move faster, and you can spin the colors around as they descend to try and create a matching set. There are also bonus tiles which appear in some of the boxes that can be used to further increase your score when you use them. This adds some variety to the puzzles, making things less predictable than they could have been. The gameplay is fairly simple and easily understood, but the key to Lumines II's appeal is the way these simple mechanics are tied into the game's soundtrack and presentation.

The basics should be familiar to anyone who played the first game, but dig a little bit deeper into the options modes and you'll find a number of cool new gameplay modes and customization options that make this a more personal experience. There are several new single player modes including a progressively harder challenge mode, which is significantly more difficult than the standard game. These twists are very much appreciated and help extend the game's longevity with additional depth and challenge. Players will also be able to test their reflexes and skill in the timed mode, which counts how many lines you can complete before the time runs out. You can choose how long the clock will tick in this mode as well. Puzzle Mode follows closer to the feel of the original game while the new Mission mode offers more complex puzzle solving objectives, such as creating specific types of shapes to make things even more interesting. In order to unlock new skins and music tracks, you can complete levels in the challenge mode. These new skins can then be used in the game's other modes as well. Lumines II also lets players create custom single player games by letting them choose and customize the order of skins and music during each game. You can also change the type of console you use, to further customize the game's look. In addition, players can select a number of multiplayer options that allow them to share skins and custom music tracks via wi-fi connections. While the single player games are exciting, playing along with others online or via system links adds an entirely new dimension to the gameplay. There are a number of standard modes along with some new Duel modes for multiplayer games that add a competitive layer onto the already addictive game. You can practice your techniques in the Vs. CPU mode and then use these skills when you play against another player as well. Lumines II's gameplay modes are fairly robust and offer a variety in the ways you can play the game.

Lumines' soundtrack is a bit more expansive than the first game, which featured mainly techno and dance music to include more pop acts like Beck, Black Eyed Peas, Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Junkie XL and, Gwen Stefani. While this attempt to create a more mainstream title is interesting, the vocal tracks offer more distraction than they're worth and actually help to detract from the overall experience. Only a few tracks are available initially, but more can be unlocked as you progress through the game. In addition to the broader selection of songs, the Lumines II also includes a sequencer function. This lets you edit and customize tracks down to their beats and notes. There are several base tracks which you can use to get started, and you can then change the beats per minute, song structure and drums to your liking. It's fairly easy to use and adds even more customization to the game. Players can also choose the order of skins they see in each level, which allows you to adjust the game's look even further. From a visual standpoint, Lumines II looks and feels quite similar to the first game with a similar presentation and interface. It maintains the hypnotic feel of the first game, though it feels a bit rougher around the edges thanks to the harder rocking soundtrack and videos. The skins and backgrounds are a bit more varied and interesting this time, though the streaming video sequences are incredibly annoying. While this sequel adds many bells and whistles, it hasn't lost sight of what made Lumines so appealing in the first place. The many enhancements, customization options and new gameplay modes are very much appreciated. While it doesn't add much innovation to the already existing franchise, this is still a solidly entertaining puzzle title and the cheap retail price makes it highly recommended for fans of the original game.

Grade: C+

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