Lumines Electronic Symphony Review (PS Vita)

Higher State.

Is it wrong to moan that a puzzle game so heavily focused on sound and music can’t manage to blend two tracks together? When a song ends in Lumines, there’s an abrupt switch to the next one, temporarily breaking the flow of your ‘Voyage’ with a jarring, sudden cross fade. When the producer, James Mielke, is himself a DJ, it’s even more frustrating. Thankfully, though, apart from a couple of missing modes, that’s probably the one single complaint I can find.

Because, happily, Lumines on Vita is otherwise great.  The soundtrack speaks for itself, the single player kicking off with the Deep Dish classic Stay Gold before moving through dirty disco, electro and some classic house.  There’s even a brief stay in Ibiza early on, Kaskade’s 4AM a beautiful track to play against, subtle moods and floating strings making way for more traditional 4/4 beats after its temporary, blissful reprise.

[drop]Voyage, as the main single player is known, attempts to take you on a musical journey, albeit one consisting of cleverly looped segments awaiting your input.  When it works, it’s a thrilling ride, everything locking into place and the tunes coming thick and fast; when it doesn’t, and you’re stuck looking for squares to build, the ad infinitum repetition of a single bar grates quickly.  Never before have I heard the words “Hey Boy, Hey Girl” so often.

But that’s not the fault of the game, it’s all down to the skill of the player.  Lumines fans will eat this up and fly through the game, the difficulty curve as smooth as ever, but those unfamiliar will likely face frustration.  The concept, that the player must create squares at least 2×2 blocks in size out of other falling blocks, is simple, but mapping the mechanics to a perpetual ‘beat bar’ means you’ll need to also feel the rhythm to succeed.

It is, in the hands of a good player, a mesmerising experience.  It’s possible to be really good at Lumines, the game 99% skill and 1% luck rather than a more unfair balance seen in lots of other puzzle games; mainly because there’s only a limited amount of combinations of a 2×2 square that can drop, it’s trivial, given time, to learn principles for each block type and where to place them in a given situation, creating lines, combos and patterns with ease.

[drop2]This all comes with practice, but don’t underestimate the commitment – it takes time.  Until then, until you get into how Lumines wants you to play, scores will be low and you’ll not unlock much of Voyage, let alone the rest of the game, meaning you’ll be hearing Stay Gold much more than you thought you might be – persevere, read about the tactics required online, and stick with it, the reward is more than worth it. Once you start to get into the flow, Electronic Symphony becomes incredibly addictive.

The core idea is so solid that there isn’t really any need for any other gimmicks, although this latest game uses the previously pointless avatars as special power-ups, such as making the next block a special one (like the chain block, which eliminates all blocks of the same colour attached) which gradually become ready over time, or can be coaxed into live sooner by repeatedly tapping the rear touch screen. A single other new addition – the randomising block – really mixes things up when it lands. Literally.

Sadly, despite ad-hoc multiplayer (which is always fun) there’s no online, no challenge mode, no puzzle mode, not even the ability to play against the AI.  There’s a global, cute little diversion where all your squares eliminated are added to everyone else’s as you try to destroy a huge block daily, a few time trials and there’s a Master mode which offers a side game with five increasingly difficult zones.  Hopefully the bits missing will appear as DLC.

Pros:

  • Brilliant soundtrack, one of the best ever
  • Looks great
  • Online leaderboards

Cons:

  • Poor mixing between tracks
  • Some missing modes and no online battle mode

The PSP launched with the first Lumines and I was happy with just that single game for well over a month.  The Vita has a much stronger launch line-up, but Electronic Symphony still manages to shine, and it’s easily one of the better titles on the system.  If you’ve any love for electronic music then the soundtrack alone is probably worth it, but as a puzzler there simply isn’t anything else around that even comes close.  Essential day one stuff.

Score: 8/10

13 Comments

  1. The Vita’s line up is ridiculous! Too many games to buy. Great review looks like another one for the list.

  2. Not sure the game is for me but the soundtrack looks awesome. Might have to go sniff around on the interwebs to find me some tracks to preview. Lovely review, nofi. Great that the Vita is getting such a great title from the off (and with killer choons).

  3. I can see ‘PS Vita has too many games’ being the new ‘PS3 has no games’. There’re too many quality releases competing for my money with its release!

  4. Here we go!

  5. Any chance we can get a video of you playing the game to get a feel for the “poor mixing between tracks”?

  6. Didn’t really dig the original Lumines for PSP so will probably skip this altogether.

  7. If I ever buy a Vita, I’ll definitely be buying this game.

  8. This game is one of my pre orders, I heard good stuff about the originals on PSP but never really played PSP other than for 4 player GTA online and MOH.

  9. Never played a Lumines game before, but I have this and Rayman pre-ordered from Amazon at daylight robbery prices (£6.11 each).
    Really looking to forward to them.
    I have my 3G Vita ordered in Game, I’ll get Wipeout with the Vodafone offer and then I’ll choose between Uncharted cart or Uncharted download (It’s a big file, but if I download it I’ll have Wipeout, Uncharted and Rayman/another cart game without carrying anything extra, which is a bonus).

    • Dam I thought I got a good deal at £8 each.

      • Hah!
        Still not bad though!
        I’ve been convinced I’d receive an e-mail telling me they made a mistake since I ordered them, but that was back at the 8th of January and they still haven’t done it, I think I’m going to be lucky!

  10. Quite happy they took out stuff like puzzle mode. I played it once and never went back to it.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Lost Password

Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.

Sign Up