Puzzle games have been a staple on handhelds since Nintendo first packaged Tetris in with their old black and white GameBoy. It’s the genre with the broadest appeal, enjoyed by everybody from hardcore gamers to casual gamers to non-gamers. You can always expect to see a puzzle game at or around the time of the launch of a new portable, they just go together, like cookies and milk or baseball and hotdogs.
Lumines is the PSP’s lone puzzle game at launch, standing next to hotly anticipated racing games, online sports titles, and a number of big name franchises. It’s a game that isn’t especially easy to describe on the back of a box and whose pictures certainly don’t do it justice. Lumines is the type of game that most people will probably overlook while rushing to pick up their Tony Hawk’s and Ridge Racers; a game you might wait to go down in price. But I assure you, there is not one single game launching with the PSP that deserves your money more than Lumines. It is by far the most addictive puzzler I have played in well over a decade, and hands down the best game currently for Sony’s handheld device.
At first glance Lumines might look familiar, tying together elements from a number of other popular puzzle games over the last twenty years, but it won’t take long before you see how unique this game is. Q Entertainment has managed to combine puzzle games with the music genre, a recipe that could have gone horribly awry without the proper supervision. Thankfully Lumines doesn’t have that problem as it’s programmed by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the mastermind behind Sega Rally, Rez, and Space Channel 5. Here he and his team are able to take a good idea and turn it into one of the most addictive games you will ever play.
Lumines is the type of game where it’s easy to learn the basics, but impossible to master. It takes a simple theme and twists it enough to where it challenges you to think in a whole new way. Square blocks fall from the top of the screen in a number of different color patterns; it is your job to connect four of the same colors together to make a square. Every so often a vertical line will move over the screen from left to right effectively wiping clean any square you have made out of the colors. You have a limited amount of time to make as many boxes out of the colors before the line comes and wipes them clean, forcing you to work fast and plan your block placements several steps in advance.
Thankfully the creators have made this task a little easier by only making you worry about two colors at a time. Although the colors will change as you progress through the game, you are never asked to work with more than two colors at a time. The challenge is purely in figuring out how to get the most squares made before the game wipes them away.
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