Puzzle games and handheld systems seemingly go hand-in-hand (pun fully intended). One of the best puzzle games on Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) was 2004’s Lumines: Puzzle Fusion, a game that mixed dropping blocks with some amazing music, both tied intrinsically together as you play. The game gained a cult following, and saw console versions for both the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3, as well as the Xbox 360. Now, developer Resonair is bringing the game to current gen systems with Lumines Remastered, for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Switch, and the spirit of the portability that the original game offered is alive and well on the Nintendo hybrid handheld/console.
Lumines Remastered is a simple 2×2 block game, where bi-colored constructs fall from the top of the screen, and the player maneuvers them with a simple button press and the control pad or left stick. The player has a rather large playing field as to where they can drop the blocks, measuring 16×10. Connecting colors in blocks of four or more when the timeline swipes across the screen will make the blocks disappear and earn points. Some of the strategy involved in scoring huge points is building massive matches before the timeline sweeps the screen, to maximize your score.
In addition to the tried and true block puzzle game mechanic, pulsing music is played with licensed songs from real artists. When a song ends, the color scheme on the blocks shifts with the new song, which adds a neat little wrinkle by forcing the player to think fast and on the fly. The music and the color switching are probably my favorite aspects of Lumines Remastered, and what keeps me playing again and again.
Lumines Remastered is a full-featured puzzle game that offers seven different play modes, each with its own set of rules and objectives. Resonair has done a wonderful job of taking a simple “blocks fall from the sky” mechanic and created modes with purpose.
Challenge mode allows players to just marathon a session for as long as they can, and they unlock new skins and music by reaching certain plateaus. This is a good way to get a feel for the game and listen to some of the excellent EDM-style music.
Skin Edit allows the player to select which songs and block skin combinations to use. You can build a veritable album worth of songs and then play them. It’s a good way to revisit favorites while trying to get better game rankings.
Time Attack gives you a selectable time limit (60 second, 180 seconds, or 240 seconds) and players try to erase as many squares as they can before time runs out.
Puzzle Mode gives the player various shapes that they have to try and build as the blocks fall. On the surface, this seems like a simple objective, but once the squares fall, it becomes a frustrating exercise in pure chaos.
Mission Mode gives players specific objectives, like “erase three blocks” and then you move on. It’s simple and fun, until it isn’t. Higher level missions become mind-numbing quests to do the near impossible.
The last two modes are “Vs.” modes, one against the CPU and the other is a two player head-to-head battle. Players erase squares as quickly as they can, which forces the divider on their half of the screen to expand, hopefully squeezing out your opponent. The CPU is a decent challenge, but two-player mode can lead to some arguments or worse.
Lumines Remastered has 40 skins to unlock and play. Skins represent the song, the background, and the block color scheme of a match. Unlocking everything in the game is a heady task, and only the best players will ever unlock every skin. Some of the requisites are mind boggling to me, like “Reach Level 100 in Basic Challenge” mode. Nope, never gonna happen. The game ranks you in almost every game mode, which also pushes the player to do better and climb the ranking boards.
The Nintendo Switch is the perfect console for a game like Lumines Remastered. The option to play it on the TV screen or as a handheld keep the game tied to its origins on the PSP, and sitting on a train or plane or in a waiting room playing Challenge mode with a good set of headphones makes for a wonderful time. Even with the option of playing on the my big screen, I still prefer the handheld option, as it creates a sense of pulsing intimacy with headphones on.
Lumines Remastered is a fine reintroduction to a classic puzzle game. Resonair has done a wonderful job of bringing a 16-year-old game to a new generation, and the things that make Lumines a classic are evident from the very first challenge. Giving the option to play this on the Switch makes it that much more appealing, as this is the perfect game for the handheld device — just like it was in 2002.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A review copy was provided by Enhance Experience.