Hands-on with Lumines Electronic Symphony on PS Vita

Fun squared

Hands-on with Lumines Electronic Symphony on PS Vita

It might seem odd to some that Lumines Electronic Symphony is included in the PS Vita launch line-up.

Glimpsing its square shoulders between Uncharted: Golden Abyss's impressive stature and the sweeping curves of WipEout 2048, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it had been invited to the wrong party.

Look a little closer, however, and you'll remember why Lumines has acquired its reputation as one of the best puzzle games in the history of the genre.

Retaining the musical focus from previous efforts Space Channel 5 and Rez, Tetsuya Mizuguchi decided to breathe new life into the Tetris formula by combining block-dropping gameplay with rhythm-action elements, and then setting the whole package to a scorching digital soundtrack.

The result was one of the most critically lauded games on the PSP. Sequels followed, but it has been five years since the franchise has reared its head on any platform. Now it’s back, with the obligatory HD makeover, as part of the first wave of titles for Sony’s latest portable powerhouse.

The sound of progress

If you’ve spent any time in the company of its predecessors, Lumines Electronic Symphony will make you feel right at home.

The same basic principles of play remain unaltered: you have to rotate and drop 2x2 squares composed of coloured blocks, and try to clear the screen by matching the blocks with their similarly coloured counterparts.

Each stage features a distinct skin and song, and blocks are cleared by a vertical line that sweeps across the screen in time to the music.

Opt for the classic D-pad controls and you’ll find it’s business as usual, with the PS Vita’s inputs replicating the original experience with ease.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can avail yourself of the console’s front and rear touchscreens and swipe the blocks around the screen. It’s a style of play that might take some getting used to, but it all feels reassuringly instinctive.

Blocks have become cubes as the result of some graphical improvements. The animated backgrounds pulse with colours and shapes, creating the illusion that you’re arranging boxes over an interactive art installation.

Four to the floor

And now the soundtrack. Q Entertainment has gathered together an imposing group of artists to supply the playlist, with the likes of Aphex Twin, Amon Tobin, The Chemical Brothers, and LCD Soundsystem all bringing a song to the party.

It’s rare to see a line-up of this calibre outside the WipEout series, so keep your headphones handy if you want to enjoy the full experience.

While this release is more of a refinement than a reinvention, there are some new features designed to take advantage of the PS Vita’s social capabilities.

The multiplayer mode is now complemented by item-swapping options courtesy of the systems networking app Near. A play style-based XP system has been incorporated, providing you with ranks and stats to compare with friends (and rivals).

We also caught sight of a couple of new block mechanics. Chain Block will let you clear large grid sections using block combos, while the Shuffle Block reorders the stack to open up new clearing possibilities.

Factor in the addition of a super-tough Master mode for the experienced player, and Lumines Electronic Symphony looks set to be a defining entry in an historic franchise.

The game is available for digital download from February 14th, one week before the PS Vita launches in Europe and North America.

James Gilmour
James Gilmour
James pivoted to video so hard that he permanently damaged his spine, which now doubles as a Cronenbergian mic stand. If the pictures are moving, he's the one to blame.