PSP Fanboy review: Lumines II


Lumines II is the hotly anticipated sequel to Lumines, a fan-favorite launch game that won the hearts of gamers and critics. The stylish combination of music, art and gameplay made for a truly surreal experience that was perfect for portable gamers on the go. The gameplay was brilliantly simple: a 2x2 block falls from the sky, and the player must rotate and position that block to create a solid 4x4 square of one color.

The simplicity of the game allowed anyone to pick up and play, and as with all great puzzle games, players started to learn more techniques and secrets to improve their performance. A typical Lumines session for a skilled player can easily span longer than an hour, but with changing backgrounds, songs, and tempos, the player constantly feels motivated.

The original introduced such a great formula, and Q? Entertainment's sequel doesn't stray too far from it--and that's a good thing in many ways. Lumines II offers a plethora of new content, and a great refinement in the user interface. However, is the game enough to warrant a purchase from those that already have the original? How about gamers that are new to this Lumines craze?



A Whole New Look & Sound

Lumines II's biggest addition is arguably the licensed music. Music from the Black Eyed Peas, Fatboy Slim, and more, have found their way into the game. With these familiar sounds are familiar backgrounds: the game displays music videos behind your puzzling landscape. While some may find the videos distracting, I found myself to be so entranced by the blocks, that I couldn't even notice the videos. It certainly looks good from afar, and any onlookers will see that this is one very pretty game. Some may say the licensed music is inappropriate, but I'd have to disagree. Sure, there are a few stinkers in the game, like Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl. However, songs like The Go Team's Bottle Rocket and Hoobastank's Born to Lead are great, energetic additions to the game. And, if you don't like any of these songs, you'll be certain to find something you'll like: the game features a mind-boggling collection of skins: nearly 100! It includes songs from the original, new Jpop tunes, and more, so your favorite musical genre is most likely covered by this game.



Things to See & Do

The meat of the game comes in Challenge Mode, which has you playing a playlist of songs, unlocking skins. There are now three difficulty levels, which have different skins in each. The Enduro Mode becomes unlocked once you've beaten all three difficulties, and has you playing through every single song in the game. Wow. The Skin Edit is a nice addition to the game, which allows you to create your own playlists. One of the biggest problems with the original was you were forced to play in the same order every time, all the time.

There is a new Sequencer feature, which allows you to create your own background music. However, it seems incredibly limited, and is never explained by the game. Some may find some creative inspiration here, but it feels like the tracks you can create don't sound very different from each other. This feels like a tacked-on feature at best.

There are finally new tutorials and tips for players that might be unfamiliar with the subtleties in the game. A welcome addition, although not a significant one.

Other than new skins and the useless Sequencer feature, there aren't any significantly new features. The VS CPU, Time Attack and Puzzle Modes all return, and for any players of the original, they'll seem a bit too familiar. The new Mission Mode is a new feature for the game, but it feels like a variation of Puzzle Mode. Duel Mode returns as well, but is Ad-Hoc only, once again.



Some Poor Design Choices
New features like the stats-collecting database are highly welcomed. However, Lumines II reflects some puzzling omissions that will inevitably end up in a sequel. For example, why are there no song previews in the song select menu? With such a great variety of songs to choose from, it's hard to remember the titles of the truly stellar songs. This method of selection seems very counter-intuitive. There is Game Sharing featured on the UMD, but strangely, it's not to allow others play against you: you simply send a demo to them. Strange--like many PSP games, it's not the easiest thing in the world to find another PSP user that has the same exact game as you for multiplayer.

Conclusion
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The original Lumines is considered to be one of the best games on the handheld, and it seems like Mizuguchi's team hasn't strayed too far from the original's formula. Although the core mechanics of the game remain unchanged, the new skins, and sleeker presentation make it more than a worthwhile purchase, even for people that played the original extensively. However, with no infrastructure option, and some puzzling user interface issues, it's sad to see that Lumines Ii isn't as perfect as it could have, should have, been.

PSP Fanboy Score: 9.0

Tip:
Puzzle Mode is a breeze when you use Pause the game. Always look at what blocks you have to assemble at the bottom. Throw away all unnecessary blocks to a different part of the screen.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.