It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Lumines series. My love for Lumines is odd since I’ve also been known as a gamer who usually ignores puzzle games. Sure I’ve played my fair share of Tetris and Dr. Mario as a kid, but the puzzle genre has always bored me while each game always feels extremely light on content and never worth the cash. It wasn’t until ex-Sega developer Tetsuya Mizuguchi, creator of early rhythm games such as Space Channel 5 and Rez, co-founded the studio Q Entertainment and created a musical puzzle game that launched on the Playstation Portable that absolutely blew my mind — that puzzle game was Lumines.
The fusion of electronica music, artistic visuals and unique puzzle gameplay are the elements that drew me into Lumines. Purchasing the game was certainly a risk on my part since the chances of me hating the game were very high. Fortunately for me, I absolutely fell in love with Lumines and deemed it the sole reason to own a PSP handheld. A sequel came to follow a few years later that switched the music to a more Pop-friendly soundtrack and disappointed some fans. Sony eventually launched their successor to the PSP known as the Playstation Vita. Q Entertainment once again helped launch a Sony handheld with a new game in the series titled Lumines: Electronic Symphony. I again deemed this new game as the sole reason to own a Vita. Electronic Symphony eventually found itself on my top ten list of favorite games of all-time.
Fast forward four years and now we have a brand new mobile entry in the Lumines series titled Lumines: Puzzle & Music. The game launched in North America for the iOS and Android platforms on September 1st and promised to bring the Lumines experience to smartphone users. This time developer Mobcast tackled the game with Mizuguchi aiding in development. Lumines once again broke boundaries for me since I typically hate gaming on a smartphone, but I couldn’t say “no” to a new Lumines game. After purging $3 from my wallet and trying to contain my excitement, I spend some time with the new mobile entry of Lumines and I’m happy to say the results are very positive.
Just in case all of you reading have not experienced Lumines, let me quickly explain what this game actually is. Lumines is a puzzle game that controls similarly to the likes of Tetris and Columns where blocks slowly drop from the top of the screen and can be rotated and placed on a board. The goal is to match four or more blocks of the same color into the shape of a square to make them disappear from the screen. Unlike the majority of puzzle games out there, Lumines is not a dime-a-dozen match-three game at all. What makes Lumines unique is that all blocks consist of four smaller blocks that form a square, so lining up these “blocks made of blocks” so the colors match with the ones already laying at the bottom of the board can be quite a challenge. As a player you have to totally rethink how you play puzzle games here.
Lumines also plays entirely to an electronica soundtrack. Each time the player rotates a block, it adds sound effects to the music currently playing. Laying blocks down and clearing blocks from the board also creates sound effects that add to the music, essentially adding musical elements to the song and allowing the player to help create the music. While all of these elements are working together, the backgrounds are filled with gorgeous artistic visuals that help add to the vibe the music is trying to create for the player. Coming off of previous entries in the series, the backgrounds here are not as elaborate as you would expect but they still work well. All of these elements craft the full Lumines experience that not only makes for a compelling puzzle game, but also creates sort of a euphoric experience that encompasses the player into a visual and audio light show that’s simply something gamers need to experience.
Similar to previous games in the series, the visual backgrounds and graphics on the blocks change as the song transitions. The player must clear blocks and create combos to rack up more points. A vertical line moves across the board from left to right and shifts faster as players progress through songs. The goal is to create as many blocks of the same color before the line passes by in order to achieve higher combos. Once enough blocks have been cleared, the song will transition into a new track. The gameplay seems complex at first but after a few attempts at getting your feet wet, the gameplay totally clicks and becomes quite addictive.
Puzzle & Music retains this same style of gameplay here but translates it to a smartphone using touch screen controls. Typically this results in frustration for me unless the game was completely designed around touch controls, but luckily Puzzle & Music works very well on a touch screen. As the blocks drop, the player taps the screen to rotate them, slides their finger left and right to shift them and slides down to quickly drop the block on the board. When the action starts getting hectic, working quickly can be sort of a challenge since I noticed the touch controls are not quite as accurate as a d-pad. Many times I tapped to rotate a block and nothing happened, which as a result forced me to drop a block down in an order I didn’t intend to. The lack of responsiveness can sometimes hurt the experience but the controls work well more often than not. Hopefully the developer can smooth out these control issues in a patch.
Two modes are included in Puzzle & Music in the form of albums. The first album consists of brand new music created for Puzzle & Music. The second album includes a collection of music from classic Lumines games including fan favorite Shinin’ by Mondo Grosso. Three difficulties reside in each album; the higher the difficulty the more songs the player must clear and essentially must last longer without filling up the board. In order to unlock all of the included tracks in the game, the player must complete all three difficulties in both albums. After the game is beaten, players can play individual songs in an endless mode and try to rack up the highest score possible. The game will also allow the player to cycle through songs in an album endlessly if they wish.
Going by the standards set by previous Lumines games, Puzzle & Music is very light on content. The game only includes 14 tracks and none of them are licensed so they’re more or less crafted for this game by in-house independent electronica artists. Fortunately all of the songs fit the series well and are high in quality. Leaderboards and achievements are implemented into the game to add some lasting appeal to the overall package too. The real heart of Lumines has always been to play through the game over and over again to enjoy the audio and visual experience again while attempting to reach a new high score. Puzzle & Music certainly offers that.
Lumines: Puzzle & Music is Lumines-lite and isn’t packed full of features normally found in a Lumines title, but for $2.99 you’re getting the Lumines experience on your phone for a very small asking price. The music is solid, the visuals are crisp and clean, and the gameplay works very well on a touch screen. Aside from some responsiveness issues I experienced in the touch controls, Puzzle & Music is a great puzzle game to have on your iOS or Android device that isn’t littered with gross in-app freemium purchases. Hopefully the developer will include some downloadable DLC in the near future so the game can grow into a more full-fledged Lumines experience. I finally have a game on my iPhone that I actually want to sit and play on a normal basis. Just make sure you play the game with a pair of headphones in order to get the full experience Lumines tries to offer.
Lumines: Puzzle & Music was reviewed on an iPhone 6S Plus using firmware 9.3.5 with AT&T as the carrier.
Purchase the iOS version here
Purchase the Android version here