Lumines Live Review
System launch titles often vary widely in quality. While they can quite often be flops or just mediocre, there are occasionally true gems that last as quality titles throughout the system’s life. When the PSP released in early 2005, a title many enjoyed was Lumines. A unique puzzle game that blended tons of skins for the blocks, music and bright colors, it was a near-instant hit on the system. People without a PSP, though, never got a chance to see what the game was all about.
Well, now Xbox 360 owners will get a shot at the game with Lumines Live. Offered on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 1200 Microsoft Points ($15 equivalent), Lumines Live offers multiplayer and a good variety of skins. There’s also an expansion pack already available that adds an “advance” mode to the challenge mode. Also, there is the promise of more content down the line, adding even more to the Lumines Live experience. However, is it worth the cost for fans of the series or should you pass this one by?
Lumines is a very simple and addictive puzzle game that gets deeper as you play. At first, you’ll just try to make four block sets of the same color with no regards to comboing them or anything like that. The line that moves across the screen will slow down or speed up, though, forcing you to play it faster or slower. As time goes on, you’ll learn to use the line to your advantage – on stages where it moves fast, you’ll place blocks really fast and just try to clear the screen while a slower moving one forces you to think more and place blocks in strategic combo patterns.
What adds to this is that the skins will change eventually, changing the speed of the line and the stages music/graphics. Where before, you may have had a slow stage that gave you a chance to build up a combo, you might have to speed it up when the skin changes. It’ll change based on your performance, though there isn’t anything that says “new skin coming in 10 seconds”, so you have to be ready to shift strategies at a moment’s notice. The game really is pretty deep strategically though it may not look like it on the surface.
What makes Lumines stand out above the pack of color and block based puzzlers is the music, light and graphics. Each skin has a new song to listen to and different graphics for the two different types of blocks. Yes, you heard me right, only two colors of blocks. When you rotate the 4-block set before dropping it, a different sound effect will play. Dropping the block adds to the “song” as does making squares that are eliminated from the board. The integration of music, graphics and gameplay really places this game above the rest.
Lumines Live also adds in some new game modes, most notably Xbox Live multiplayer and Leaderboard/Achievement capabilities. Yes, you can see where your score compares against Lumines players and earn 200 more gamer points for your Live account. The rest of the modes also make a reappearance – vs CPU, Time attack, Challenge, and Puzzle mode are here. However, there is a problem here that may keep you from fully enjoying the game.
Puzzle mode, vs CPU and the new Mission mode all only allow you to play a limited subset of levels. This feels to me like you are buying only a very small core game (12 total skins in all) and paying for the ability to play on live while all of the other modes that added some replay value to the game aren’t fully there. This argument is one I’ve thought on for a few days while thinking about what to score this game. The big issue comes in when you look at the new versions coming out on the PSP and PS2 for 30 bucks – they’re going to be full featured out of the box and, in the long run, cost less. However, Lumines Live will have more future skin expansion capability. With each expansion costing 600 Points/$7.50, you’ll pay more to complete the game but, then again, have the capability to add more skins if there are skin packs released in the future.
Looking at that, Lumines is a partially complete game that seems to be parading around as a complete game. The modes are listed right there on the menu and allow you to play what are essentially demo versions of them. As it is, though, the game definitely feels incomplete. While it may have delayed release a bit, I would have rather seen two versions – one with everything included for 30 dollars and a second “lite” version that only had the base mode and allowed you to “buy” the others as it is now. This way, if you just wanted the regular challenge mode, you could buy that and be happy. If you wanted the full version, you could get a discount on the packs.
With that said, though, Lumines Live is still a fun game. It has something none of the other versions will have in the expandability. However, the wrong direction has been taken by forcing you to “buy” the extra modes. Overall, though, it is still enjoyable and, who knows, you may not feel the lack of the other modes is an issue. Challenge mode will definitely keep you occupied for awhile. Let’s just hope the skins and added game modes make Lumines Live worth the few extra bucks that the complete package will cost over the upcoming PS2 and PSP sequels to the original.