When it comes to block-dropping puzzle games, Lumines is easily one of the best. It’s not as iconic or well known as Tetris, but alongside LocoRoco and Patapon, it was a defining game for me on the PSP, as I spent hours at a time getting deeper and deeper into each run and losing myself in Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s distinctive blending of game and soundtrack. Now it’s been remastered for the modern generation of consoles.
If you’re not familiar with Lumines, it’s a game where you’re presented with 2×2 blocks at the top of the screen, mixing two colours in different patterns. Your simple task is to drop them down onto the blocks below, spinning them round and trying to create 2×2 squares of a single colour, which are then removed as a Time Line sweeps across the screen, adding points to your score as it reaches the edge of the grid. Of course, you’re trying to create much larger pools of colour than just 2×2, often sharing the same individual blocks, which naturally award larger scores and multipliers.
It sits somewhere between Puyo Puyo and Tetris in complexity, but even more than those games the puzzle is one of your own creation, as you’re given a large 16×10 grid to drop blocks into. If you’re struggling to clear squares on one side of the screen, you can focus on the other, and there’s more than enough room to create larger strings of coloured blocks to then join up and clear in quick succession. It’s relatively easy for the first few songs to keep the screen relatively clear, but the incentive is there to make a mess and then clear it up as you earn points.
That’s complicated by each skin, which changes the look and colour of the blocks, the background visuals, the music and, most importantly, the amount of time you have before the blocks drop, how fast they drop and how fast the Time Line wipes across the screen. Getting the timing right as you wait for the line to pass and prepare the next wipe is all important to building up those combos, and equally painful if you mess something up and only some of your intended blocks disappear.
Whichever skin you’re playing through, you have a distinctive role in the soundtrack. Each time you shift the blocks, spin them round, drop them, create a large combo block, you add a particular sound on top of the music. It brings you into the soundtrack, and helps to create the effect of synaesthesia that is a hallmark of Mizuguchi-san’s work.
For the remaster, that also means the controller’s rumble is triggered with almost every action. It’s initially quite distracting, after years of playing on PSP, PS3 and PS Vita, none of which have rumble, but eventually becomes just another layer to the game. You can easily turn it off from the pause menu, selecting rhythm and/or block-dropping action. For Nintendo Switch, you can sync six extra controllers and strap them all over your body. If you’re asking why, then you’ve obviously forgotten that Mizuguchi-san had a full-body VR suit made for Rez Infinite. It’s just what he does.
As great as it is to have on the latest consoles, it does feel like a shame that it’s taken us all the way back to the very beginning of the series. In some ways the game didn’t change much over the years, from the core gameplay to the puzzle and mission mode, but the sequels did add new modes and special blocks alongside the obligatory soundtrack additions. There’s no DigDown mode, no sequencer to create your own musical skins, no stopwatch mode, and while not essential to the experience, it’s a shame that they’re missing. When none of these later games are available for sale in the EU anymore – the curse of a licensed soundtrack – only those who already own or buy second hand copies that get more modern tweaks to the formula.
That said, the original game had what I’d consider to be the most memorable soundtrack, and it’s great to have that return. The menus are also gloriously retro, presented at a kooky angle that’s one of the most 2004 things I can think of. It looks great bumped all the way up to 4K, though there’s still minor hitches as the game shifts from one skin to the next.
Having the original Lumines soundtrack on modern consoles is a nostalgia trip for fans of the 14-year-old PSP puzzler, but the core block-dropping gameplay hasn’t aged a day. It’s still just as addictive now as it was back then, but it’s a shame that as a remaster it ignores some of the game modes introduced in later games. As remasters go, Lumines is impeccable, but then it was always going to be.
Version tested: PlayStation 4
Also available for Xbox One, Nintendo Switch & PC