Lumines: Supernova

Back in the mid 1980s, one of the most addictive puzzle games of all time was developed by Alexey Pajitnov. The game has stood the test of time better than almost any other on the planet, and still sees new iterations released on a variety of consoles even now. The game is, of course, Tetris, based on what may seem like a simple concept, but possessing more depth than the Pacific Ocean over Mariana Trench. With the absence of this title on PS3, it's fortunate that several other games, no doubt taking inspiration from the mighty Russian masterpiece, are available, with new ideas that have succeeded to varying degree. One of the most inspired puzzle games to evolve in this way is Lumines, which received a glowing reception on PSP. The title now makes its way to Playstation 3, in the form of Lumines Supernova.

Lumines

Much like Tetris, Lumines features blocks falling onto a grid, though in this case the grid is 16 blocks wide and 10 high, and - most importantly - all blocks are 2x2, in contrast to the varied shapes seen elsewhere. The difficulty is that each block is comprised of up to two colours, arranged in any combination, making blocks of uniform colour more tricky to create, which is exactly what you're required to do in the game. A vertical line sweeps across the grid at regular intervals, and as soon as you create a block of uniform colour that is at least 2x2, that block will disappear when the line reaches it, adding to your score, and reducing the number of blocks on screen. Another facet of the Lumines formula is that gravity will always prevail, meaning that placing a block over a ledge will cause the blocks to split and descend to the lowest available place. What ensues is the usual desperate struggle to remove as many blocks as possible, as fast as possible, in the hope that the top of the screen is never reached.

The main concept alone might not be enough to compete with the classic Tetris, but Lumines has more up its sleeve than simply the creation of 2x2 blocks. Bonus multipliers can be achieved by creating even larger blocks, which makes sense since you can imagine a 4x4 block being comprised not simply of four 2x2 blocks, but actually of any number of rectangles and blocks that can be made to fit within. As a result, there is scope for some clever tactical play, and it is supremely exploited by some of the more talented players. In addition, there are special blocks that, when inside a 2x2 (or larger) block, will cause all blocks of the same colour, connected by an edge to the current block (with scope for chaining many linked edges), to be deleted. Crafty use of special blocks can lead to the remaining colour creating even larger blocks, with large rewards for the player. Incredibly, it's a formula that has as much depth and scope as Tetris, with every bit as much potential for hours and hours of score improvement and addiction baiting.

Lumines

There is a pleasing array of modes to try out, ranging from the basic challenge mode (involving a marathon-style approach to line deletion), through to time attacks and puzzles (where you are required to create certain shapes from one colour on the screen, with increasing complexity). Brilliantly, there is also a multiplayer mode, where you share a screen and fight to move the dividing line between your individual areas so that the leader has more screen space to accommodate their blocks. It's similar in style to dumping lines from Tetris on eachother, but acting horizontally as you fight for screen real estate. The only disappointment there is that there's no online competitive play or cooperative modes. Though it might be tricky to implement, it seems to me that Lumines is ideally suited to cooperative play, since two people could easily bring blocks down together, acting towards a unified goal. A few collision-detection issues aside, it could have been quite easy perhaps, but there's no facility for it.

A major selling point for Lumines is the variety in themes. As you work through challenges and other modes, different themes will be used and made available. Each one features different shapes and colours for the blocks, different backgrounds and, perhaps most importantly, different sound effects and music. The sound in Lumines is extremely important, since it reacts to the on-screen gameplay. Even small actions like rotating a falling block might trigger an effect. Similarly, effects may be linked to the creation of 2x2 blocks, and music may increase in complexity when you are performing particularly well. Even the tempo of the line sweeper and the fall rate of the blocks will vary from level to leve, meaning taht the individuality of each level is remarkable. It's a massive plus for the game, keeping the experience fresh with every play. There's actually a decent number of themes to unlock too, with many proving quite a challenge to obtain, since they are usually linked to clearing particular challenges or modes.

Lumines

Obviously there's nothing too complex visually, but it's all very smartly done, with a nicely presented menu system, snazzy, sharp graphics and plenty of colour. The various themes are rarely offensive (though inevitably there will be colour schemes and music that doesn't suit everyone's tastes). Still, it does look good, particularly for a store title, and the team clearly went to town on the music and sound package. It's also nice to see the game loaning from other popular Sony titles, with a LittleBigPlanet-themed level a very notable feature, with accompanying effects and even a cute little sackperson scampering along in the background. It all adds to a very slick package, showing that the game is a more complete experience than simply a dressed up one-note puzzler.

The key strength of the title though, much like Tetris, is likely to be the lastability, with literally endless potential for score improvement. Eventually, themes start to cycle, allowing players to carry on until their thumbs crumble and their eyes concede that they can no longer maintain the current strain. In addition to the endless gameplay, there are trophies to keep players interested, encouraging experimentation with all of the available modes, and setting realistic goals in the challenge mode (unlocking a certain number of skins, for example). With such variety, a range of target difficulty, and limitless gameplay, there's little to criticise about the game. Obviously it's not as adventurous as something like Metal Gear Solid, and it's a real shame that there aren't better multiplayer options (online or cooperative), but overall Lumines Supernova is a fantastic puzzler, one of the best on PS3, and a supreme addition to the Playstation Store.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Q Entertainment

Developer:

Q Entertainment

Players:

1-2

Online:

Rankings

Release:

2009-02-05

Trophies:

11

Review summary

Gameplay:

Tremendously addictive puzzling to rival the mighty Tetris

Graphics:

Bright and vibrant, but ultimately simple

Sound:

Clever reactive music and varied effects

Lastability:

Life-consuming challenges and puzzles

8.9

Supernova

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