There's a phrase that's often used to describe games, especially puzzle games - 'easy to pick up, hard to master'. It's become a bit of a cliche but if you look closely at the reviews on Pocket Gamer, you'll find it dotted around because - as with all cliches - it contains an element of truth. The problem is all games, if properly designed, should follow the 'easy pick, hard master' route. It's a phrase that marks your progress as someone who starts a game not really knowing what to do to someone's who's the expert that will go on to become king of the (gaming) world.
But if any game really deserves the phrase it's Lumines. Partly this is because Lumines is a fantastic game. Partly it's because as a fantastic puzzle game, 'easy to pick up, hard to master' exactly explains the way Lumines works.
Simply put, Lumines is a bit like Tetris in that blocks fall from the top of your screen and you get to rotate and position where they fall. The main difference is that in Lumines all the blocks are square (consisting of two units by two units) which are coloured in one of two colours. The way you get rid of the blocks is by building squares of at least two units by two units of the same colour. But to add complexity to the game, these coloured blocks are only removed as a vertical line slowly sweeps across the screen. Cleverly, this means to do well at the game, you have to be good at timing as well as thinking. Because to score high, you'll need to build up as many combinations of two by two or three by two (or as big as you can manage) before the sweeping line comes to remove them. Then once the line has swept through, the blocks on top of those that have been removed fall down, which if you're really smart you can use to create more coloured areas which will be removed on the next sweep. The difficulty is to always be aware which blocks are going to fall next - the game shows you the next three blocks to drop - because it's game over once you've filled the screen with blocks and there's no place else to fall. Thankfully though, there are some special gem blocks - which when removed cause all the touching blocks of the other colour to vanish as well. As you will learn , these blocks are your friends.
But such a description makes Lumines seem a bit intellectual and dry. One reason it's not is the music. Not often a reason for buying a game, in the case of Lumines the music is excellent. Combined with different graphical styles (music and graphics together are called skins which you'll unlock as you progress), they works as levels, with new tunes and new combinations of colours and block graphics changing as you get further into the game. Of course, at the same time, the blocks start falling faster and the vertical sweep goes slower, which means if you're a good player you can create bigger combos, but you'll end up filling up the screen if you're not so talented. The great thing about Lumines however, is that talented or not, it's a beautiful experience and no matter what score you end up with, you'll always be tempted to play again to do better. And even better is the more you play, the more talented you'll become.
But we shouldn't get carried away. Lumines is only a game after all, not the solution to world hunger and so before getting too excited, let's take a step back and talk about the other game modes. There's a really strange puzzle mode where you have to build special shapes, plus several time attacks where you have to get rid of as many blocks as possible within certain time periods. There's even a two player mode, which you can play against the computer or a real wi-fi enabled PSP player, where your success in removing blocks reduces the screensize of your opponent. None of these really matches up to the sheer fun and replayability of the single player mode though. In fact, it's so good it's the closest thing we hope you ever get to class A drugs.
Lumines – the game of 2005? You heard it here first!Lumines is on sale now.