The popular PSP game comes to the Xbox 360 through the system’s Xbox Live Arcade, after much ballyhooing and repeated setbacks and delays. With its mix of puzzle action and techno dance tracks, it looks to be just what the system’s puzzle fans have been longing for. But after finally getting my hands on the game, is it really the same amazing game, or is itâ€¦wellâ€¦puzzling?
Much like all the greatest puzzle games out there, Lumines Live is easily accessible, and its fundamentals are so graspable you’ll be linking combos like mad right from the moment you boot the game up; but like any really good puzzle game, to truly grasp the full potential you must learn the ways of the warrior, perfecting your game, and learning what blocks to place where at the exact right moments and planning ahead like a grand champion in chess several moves in advance.
The core fundamental of Lumines Live is that rectangle based grid system made of tiny square blocks. While the music plays, a single line goes from left to right, all the while you are trying to place blocks down in the grid system. Each piece is made up of four squares in a two by two system, with the only differences being how many of one colored are represented in the four block system. As a piece descends onto the board, it’ll either be made entirely of one color or design or two. For the pieces with two different colors or designs, they’ll come with either a ratio of 1 to 3, 2 to 2, or 3 to 1. To advance through the game and ultimately rack up all the points you can, you must erase these placed pieces by matching up like-minded colors in a two by two square. Now, that right there is the main gameplay mechanic, but it expands and gets a tad more complicated as you go along.
Though you never get any larger pieces, multiple colors, or varying shapes, you can chain combos together, which adds to the depth of the game. Chain combos happen by getting multiple matches before the track line goes across the playing board on one swipe; the more you get matched the more points you get. You can also expand on the two by two matches before the line sweeps across them, by placing matching colors so that they attach to them. For example, if you match four white pieces together, you can drop another double white sided piece on top of it or to the side to have those squares of the piece merge and get taken out at the same time. The rest of the challenge of the game comes from the fact that after a skin (aka levels) is over, the game seamlessly merges to another one, by changing the background art, the music playing, and the look of the pieces; you can go from orange and white blocks on one level to zebra and leopard blocks the next. The changes can be discombobulating at first, which leads to part of the challenge. Also, as the game advances through skins, the speed gets quicker and quicker, which every good puzzle game fan knows usually means imminent doom as you struggle to make sense of it all.
The main mode is that of the Challenge Mode, which is a continuous advancement through the skins until you ultimately lose (these scores can be uploaded to the Leaderboards, which is why you’ll try to perfect this mode and rank as high a score as you can). The real draw, besides advancing up on the Leaderboards, is that this is the mode you have to play to unlock the skins; you actually have to play on a particular skin to be able to unlock it and use it in other modes.
Besides Challenge Mode, if you are the single player type, you’ve also got VS CPU, where you play a game against the computer in various rounds of difficulty; Time Attack, where you see how many matches you can make in whatever given time you choose to participate in; Puzzle Mode, in which you try to recreate shapes with puzzle pieces to clear the level; and Mission Mode, where you must perform certain actions in the game, like clearing a level with only one move.
Remember when I said in the intro that the game was puzzling, well here is where that comes into play. You see, if you download Lumines Live, you’ll get to experience all these modes of play, but you won’t be able to “really” own them. In regards to the Puzzle Mode, Mission Mode, and VS CPU, you’ll only get a taste to whet your appetite, so you’ll have to fork over even more money and points to get these modes. Was the game released before these could be implemented or is this simply a way to pilfer the money from the gamer’s pocket? The lack of the Puzzle Mode and Mission Mode didn’t affect me too much, because I’m generally not a fan of those type of Modes, but the one level of VS CPU I got to play was really engaging and wish it had been included.
Thankfully, if you are looking to battle, you can play Local Versus (on the same system with another person in your own room) or you can play over Xbox Live. The fundamentals of the gameplay are the same as in the regular single player game, only now the board is split into two. The twist of the multiplayer is that as you make combos, you force the player’s other screen in which they can place pieces to get smaller, making it so there is a quicker chance of them building up pieces above the level of play and losing the game; imagine a game of tug of war and the line is the flag. The downfall to this mode, sadly, is the terrible, terrible lag; not once have I played a game where it wasn’t bogged down with choppy gameplay. Lag can be overcame in some games depending on genre, but puzzle games are not one, because too many times I ended up not spinning a piece enough times or moving it too far in one direction because the lag kept my moves from being responsive. Sure, the mode is still fun, but only barely and will remain that way until it becomes smoother in the execution.
The graphics and sound are both nice. I love the trippy colors that flash across the screen and the music helps to envelope you even more into the game as the colors and sound blend perfectly. The music also compliments the gameplay perfectly, as it really feels like you are creating the music, because every time you move a piece, drop a piece, or make a combo you’ll hear sound effects (like record scratches) that blend into the actual song playing in the background of a skin.
Let’s get this straight: I love the game. Lumines Live is an amazing puzzle game that is both relaxing (thanks to the simple puzzle matching aspect and the cool as ice grooves) and yet tension filled at the same time as you try not to go across that top line and get the dreaded game over screen. The reason for the score you see below you is for a two-fold reason: 1) the multiplayer is atrociously laggy, and 2) though the game has seemingly taken forever to be released for Xbox Live since it was announced, it feels like a rush job considering how much was “left out” for a pack you must buy for even more money and points at a later time. If the game I’m playing now had/fixed those two issues, it would easily be a five star game. But with those major shortcomings, it knocks the game down. Lumines Live gameplay is a five no question, but the game itself doesn’t live up to that stellar system.