Lumines II

Along with Wipeout Pure, Lumines was the definitive launch title for the PlayStation Portable nearly a year and a half ago. Widespread praise for the game was complemented by a call for more content, which was promised with its sequel, Lumines II. While the game certainly offers more content than the original, Lumines II doesn’t provide enough of an upgrade to justify its purchase.
Lumines II is an extraordinarily straightforward puzzle game similar to Tetris. The object of the game is to join blocks of a similar color by directing falling pieces on the screen. From the top of the screen descend square puzzle pieces comprised of four smaller squares, which can be rotated using any of the face buttons. Once colored squares are lined up at least 2×2 in dimension, they are erased from the screen by the timeline. A simple line that runs vertically across the screen, the timeline moves across the puzzle field at regular intervals, erasing any combinations you’ve created. Each combination earns you points, which go toward increasing your level and raising your score. Simply, Lumines II plays much like a horizontal version of Tetris.
As a puzzle game, Lumines II is unique in that it places an emphasis on music. In Tetris, blocks simply fall faster as you increase in level. Here, the music shapes the difficulty. Blocks fall faster as you play longer, and the beat of the music affects the tempo of the timeline. The timeline moves according to the rhythm of the music being played; consequently, a slower track will cause the timeline to move slowly across the screen, whereas an upbeat tune will have it swiping back and forth quickly. In this way, the game’s music affects its difficulty, and spending time in challenge mode will expose you to a variety of tracks and backgrounds, each offering a unique challenge.
Single-player mode offers six different game types: challenge, skin edit, versus CPU, time attack, puzzle and mission mode. The most basic of these modes is challenge, which has you work through each of the game’s skins (i.e. levels) without a time limit. Three levels of difficulty are available, which were not available in the original game, and are accompanied by different arrangements of music and skins. Playing challenge mode is important since it enables you to unlock new skins for use in edit, versus CPU, and time attack modes. Skin edit mode is probably the most unusual, allowing you to take skins you’ve unlocked in challenge mode and arrange them in any order you please. The true editor is in sequencer mode, which enables you to create original music and effects. Creating custom skins is a great feature, but it’s unfortunate there isn’t a network for sharing them via Infrastructure mode.
Two additional modes vary the single-player puzzle action: puzzle and mission modes. Puzzle mode has you creating shapes from falling colored blocks as dictated by the computer. Considerably more difficult than any of the other modes, puzzle mode is perfectly suited for experience puzzle players. New to Lumines II is mission mode, which, like puzzle mode, tasks you with specific objectives to complete within a specified time. Instead of creating shapes, you must clear the screen of square in so many moves or complete an unusual trick. Mission mode is really just an extension of puzzle mode, renamed to give the illusion that the game has a wealth of gameplay modes. This doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable; in fact, both puzzle and mission modes are easily the hardest and most rewarding of the single player games.
Little has been added in the sequel in terms of multiplayer aside from the new skins. You can hook up via Ad-hoc mode to compete with another player. Duel mode, as it is aptly called, splits the screen in half and the more squares you eliminate the bigger your side of the screen gets. Lumines II really needed to have some online component, whether it was Infrastructure mode gameplay against other players or downloadable skins; either way, the lack of online play in Lumines II is a serious drawback that makes purchasing the original at Greatest Hits price a better option.
Overall, there’s little reason to pick up Lumines II. Aside from the new skins, not much content has really been added to this sequel. The core gameplay remains intact, which is a great thing since the original was fantastic; however, with only a few new modes and no online multiplayer, you’re just as well off picking up the original at half the price.

Overall: 7.5
It doesn’t possess any flaws, but it’s missing key upgrades to the original game. New skins and a couple of novel modes are welcome, but they don’t overshadow the feeling that this is a slightly updated version of the original. No online component also holds the game back.

– Tracy Erickson