It wouldn’t be Sony hardware if it didn’t have a Lumines game on it. Mechanically Lumines Electronic Symphony for the Playstation Vita is nearly identical to the original PSP release. This might sound like a criticism, but more Lumines with the core mechanics intact and lots of extras is a good thing.
If you are new to the Lumines series, it is really pretty simple. You are working with two colors of blocks. These block colors will be randomly arranged into squares of four and dropped from the sky, à la Tetris. The goal is to arrange the blocks so that you match up at least four color squares. From there you can rectangle off in any direction to match additional block and get bonus points. All the while a line is progressing across the screen to the tempo of the music and clearing blocks that you have matched. The game continues until unmatched blocks reach the top of the screen.
One major addition to the formula is the experience system. Your inevitable hours of Lumines play now translate into levels which you can show off to your friends along with your high score. Each new level will also unlock new avatars and “skins” which are a combination of a song and new set of visuals.
The avatars you unlock each have a special ability for both single and multiplayer modes. These abilities can be anything from slowing down time before the next block drops to the new block shuffling ability which can turn a mountain of unsorted blocks into tons of bonus points, if you are lucky. Each time you use your ability, you will need to build it back up again. You can do this by getting matches greater than four or by tapping the Vita’s rear touch screen. Tapping is easily the more efficient way to go, but in my experience was annoying to the point of being detrimental to the overall experience. In theory you could tap along to the beat of the song, but that just didn’t work for me. The associated sound effect just doesn’t go with the music, and even tends to drown it out.
Lumines Electronic Symphony defaults to “Voyage” mode, which will take you through a series of skins, with the difficulty ratcheting up along the way. There is also a more challenging “Master” mode, a time-based “Stop Watch” mode, a “Playlist” mode which allows you to arrange skins in your own order and a two player “Duel” mode which is sadly only local. An online Duel mode with a voice chat option would most likely have me never leaving the house again.
The World Block is a brand new concept for Lumines Electronic Symphony. Every block cleared by a Lumines player contributes to whittling away at a giant, shared World Block. If the World Block is completely erased, all contributing players get an experience bonus based on the number of blocks they removed.
Everything that has made Lumines great since the launch of the original PSP is back. The trance-inducing combination of visuals and music is better than ever with over 30 new skins including Aphex Twin, Air, The Chemical Brothers and many more (see a complete list here). Be prepared to lose all sense of time with Lumines, which is a must-have for anyone who owns a Vita and has even a passing interest in puzzle games or electronic music.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS Vita version of Lumines Electronic Symphony provided by Ubisoft. It is a PS Vita exclusive.