Stacking, chaining, destroying: This repetitive formula for block-based puzzle games has been around for over 30 years. Indeed, Lumines was once a relative newcomer to this sub-genre but it itself has been around in various guises for nearly 15 years. The latest release – Lumines Remastered – goes back to the series roots, sprucing up the original game for current generation consoles, with some help along the way from future releases.
Lumines is a very simple concept that involves blocks of two different colours dropping from the top of the screen, and the player must stack them into 2×2 squares of the same colour. Complete a square, and the Time Line removes it as it sweeps past it, dropping any blocks above it down the screen. The Time Line is a constantly moving line that goes across the screen from left to right sweeping away any completed squares.
But Lumines has a unique trick up its’ sleeve, and that comes in the form of the soundtrack for the game acting as so much more than just background music. Each music track has its own visuals – known as a skin, and even the sound effects when you manipulate the speed or rotation of the blocks are samples picked straight from the music. Not only that, but the Time Line moves across the screen in time with the music, so it pays well to always have at least one eye on that and use it to your advantage when forming the blocks.
The increase in hardware performance now means the game supports 4K and for the audiophiles, the music used are all a higher bitrate that simply would have crippled the PSP back in 2005. A few more tweaks to some of the modes and the inclusion of a strange way to utilise the vibration function of your controllers complete the package, but this is very much the same experience that veteran players will be used to.
The game is bright and bold. There can be a lot happening on the screen at any one time and racking up a decent combo leaves the screen awash with explosions, blocks, words and numbers. Eye-bleeding almost but in the best way possible. It’s Lumines at its visual best.
Any concerns regarding the mid-00’s soundtrack can be alleviated straight away; this game still sounds fantastic even after so long. The tracks have stood the test of time superbly.
Challenge mode is where players will find the ‘main’ mode, with a couple of new options from the original release such as Shuffle and Endless mode. Play through Basic mode and any of the 24 skins you unlock in this mode can be played again afterwards in Skin Edit mode. To unlock a skin, you need to play through the game, levelling up as your score increase – much like in Tetris – but the sequence that the skins appear in Basic mode is the same every time. This isn’t a problem so much for people with a deeper knowledge of the intricacies of the game but for newcomers, you may be stuck hearing the same songs over and over again before progressing any further.
Skin Edit mode is an addition originally found in Lumines II that allows players to pick and choose their favourite skins to play through whenever they like. Provided they have been unlocked.
What is also included is a bevy of different modes, all of which don’t stray far from the core gameplay loop which is commendable. Aside from the main game modes, there are also Puzzle, Mission, Time Attack and Battle. And the skills learned in these differing modes can transfer back into the main mode as you try and excel into the later levels.
Puzzle mode has you creating shapes from the blocks that fall down the screen and the mode I had the most fun with surprisingly. Starting you off easily it won’t be long before your Picross-esq masterpieces take up the entire playing field.
Mission – on the other hand – has you perform the exact opposite, giving you a pre-made playing field and only a few blocks to completely remove it. Again, this ramps up the difficulty quickly. Both modes are bulked up from previous releases as they are combining levels that were released on various Lumines iterations into the one package.
Battle mode is the two-player mode that features players battling on the same field as they attempt to decrease their opponent’s portion of the screen through combos and large scores. The smaller your portion the harder it becomes and your screen will fill up with squares quickly. If you cannot find a second player then this can be played against the CPU in another mode where unique skins can be unlocked not found in the main game. Most crucially though, there is no option to play this mode online against others, a serious omission.
If you have a few spare DualShocks lying around then you can take advantage of a newly added feature called Trance Vibration. This allows you to not only see the rhythm on-screen but ‘feel’ the bass also by placing the controllers on strategic parts of the body. This would work well on other consoles; Lumines Remastered is also releasing on Nintendo Switch so this mode works with the Joy-Con. But while the developers at Resonair recommend placing controllers on your hips, in your front pockets, under your thighs and under your feet, I would recommend not bothering because the uncomfortableness of a PS4 controller under your thigh far outweighs any enjoyment from ‘feeling’ the bass. (Their official recommendation states one more “where it feels good!” and I dread to think what their intentions are there).
Like any decent puzzle game, it’s a case of quick to pick-up but difficult to master, and this extends to the Trophies as well. They have you conquering the hardest challenges in every mode and besting the hardest CPU difficulty in Battle mode. There are also the standard ones for unlocking all Skins etc. and more skill-based achievements for linking 25 blocks together using the special Link squares or clearing ten blocks in one Time Line sweep. Overall, this will be a tricky completion.
This remaster at first glance may look like a simple clean and polish of the original, but the enhancements and new features are more than that. Lumines Remastered takes the building ‘blocks’ of the first game and adds a lot of the features introduced in the second game for a much more complete package. Not necessarily extra skins, but additional Puzzle and the inclusion of Missions, which can be a welcome distraction from the main mode. The multiplayer does feel a bit light especially considering the lack of any online multiplayer – aside from leaderboards – but Lumines Remastered proves that this is a puzzle game that stands the test of time as it welcomes new fans and veterans with its’ block rocking beats.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*