Review: Lumines Remastered (Switch)

One of the greatest puzzle games has finally come to a Nintendo console!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 08/17/2018 12:45 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Falling blocks puzzler mixed with music to craft one of the smartest and most engaging set of mechanics since Tetris; delightful soundtrack; incredible visuals; tons of modes and replay value
Poison Mushroom for...
Earning all of the skins might be tough for some and renders modes like Shuffle and Skins less engaging with fewer songs to choose from

Do any of you remember Meteos? It was a fantastic little puzzle game developed by Q Entertainment that utilized the DS’ touch screen to flick stacks of the eponymous blocks skyward in chains of three or more. It was an insanely fun title, to be sure, but it was actually one of two excellent puzzle games that Q Entertainment had put out at that time. DS got Meteos, while PlayStation Portable got Lumines: Puzzle Fusion. Tetsuya Mizuguchi, one of the co-founders of Q Entertainment, had worked as producer on Meteos, but Lumines (pronounced loo-mih-ness) was his own brainchild. It launched back in 2004 for Sony’s original portable console and the series has since gone on to reside on multiple different platforms, but never a Nintendo one. Thankfully, that has been rectified with the launch of Lumines Remastered.

Remastered is the PSP original with HD graphics, online leaderboards, HD rumble, and more. When talking about puzzle games, Tetris invariably ends up getting dragged into the conversation, and for good reason: it’s the gold standard of the genre. Yet, as much as I revere Tetris, I am unflinchingly of the mind that Lumines is firmly on equal footing with that classic game. It’s a mesmerizing mixture of falling blocks, music, light, and texture that’s utterly unique and fun. It’s also a testament to Mizuguchi’s skill as a designer that he’s managed to create such an innovative game in a world with so great an abundance of falling block puzzlers.

The concept of Lumines is simple: as blocks fall, combine them into sets of four or more to clear them. If it were that simple, however, the game wouldn’t be worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Tetris. There are several things that make Lumines stand out from the crowd. The blocks fall in randomized 2×2 cubes that are made up of two different colors or patterns. The four smaller cubes that comprise the larger one rotate either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on which button is pressed. As the blocks descend, the idea is to match four like colors/patterns, which sounds easy enough, but there’s a catch. That catch comes in the form of the timeline that sweeps across the screen. Starting from the left, this meter moves right and makes the sets of matched cubes disappear as it passes over them.

The meter itself changes speed from round to round (along with the descent speed of the blocks themselves), meaning that sometimes the player can take his time creating sets of four and chaining them together, while other times it’s moving so rapidly that the player can barely cobble together a set or two of cubes before they disappear. That all in and of itself is intriguing, but there’s yet another layer to Lumines that further enhances the experience: music! Every round of play has a different song attached to it. These pieces of music and their corresponding block colors/patterns and backgrounds are referred to as Skins in-game. As the gameplay unfolds, every movement of the blocks, including their dropping and disappearing, creates different tones and chimes that complement the music.

The resulting mixture of puzzle gameplay and music generation is brilliant. The way that the blocks interact also encourages chaining, as they can slide down in sections rather than just laying down flat on top of one another. So while four is the minimum sized square that can be formed, many other squares can be linked together beyond that. Making an enormous chain before the timeline zooms by is challenging, but it’s also rewarding, as successful chains will grant score multipliers. What’s more, there are also special cubes that fall which will eradicate an entire section of squares of the same color, so long as they’re touching. If that sounds like a lot is going on at once, know that it’s a good thing; this is some of the slickest, most intuitive puzzle gameplay ever made. Everything has a smooth flow and the difficulty curve is perfectly implemented, meaning things get tougher at a logical pace.

The core gameplay is astounding, but there’s more to Remastered beyond it. There’s 2P Battle and VS CPU modes for those wanting more direct competition. Mission and Puzzle modes are something altogether different. Here, there are set parameters that must be met to either create certain shapes out of the blocks or to clear out specific sections of the playing field in order to succeed. With 100 puzzles and 50 missions, the two modes have a healthy amount of content to get through. Time Attack, meanwhile, asks players to pick intervals of 60, 180, or 300 seconds to clear as many blocks from the playing field as possible. Challenge mode is the basic mode of the game, which itself offers Endless, Basic (beat 100 stages), or Shuffle (Skins come up randomly) to choose from. Finally, Skins mode provides the chance to play any set of ten skins either in one go or on endless repeat.

That’s a lot to engage in and Remastered further incentivizes coming back for more with an in-game achievement system. The primary reward for accomplishing the different achievements is to unlock more avatars for the player to use. It might not sound like the biggest draw, but the avatars are actually pretty cool and get more interesting with each one gained. Rounding out the package is Remastered’s eye-watering graphics. What was impressive on the screen of a PSP 13 years ago is every bit as much still today. The HD upgrade and added polish make these visuals stand out more than ever. The color schemes and patterns are cheery and bright, the backgrounds a cornucopia of color and light that befits the action on-screen but never distracts from it.

The soundtrack itself is almost perfectly curated, with an eclectic mix of electronica, pop, and other genres of music that somehow perfectly mesh together despite being so different, in some cases. I’ll admit, this is the one area of the game that was a touch hit or miss for me; some of the songs bored me to tears while others delighted. Later entries in the series boasted arguably better soundtracks, but there are still plenty of winners here in Remastered‘s soundtrack. Obviously, this is something that will totally boil down to taste, so take this not as a criticism, but just my own takeaway. Regardless, Remastered is a stunning addition to the Switch library that absolutely shouldn’t be missed. Puzzle fans will likely delight the most from the game’s mechanics, but even those who have been turned off by puzzle titles in the past should consider giving Lumines Remastered a look, as it does enough different to warrant any gamer’s attention.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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