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PS2 Review: Lumines Plus

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Squares have never been seen the same way since Lumines hit the puzzle scene at the launch of Sony’s PSP, and while it’s surprising it took so long, the musical match up title finally hits the Playstation 2.

Lumines Plus for the PS2 changes only a sliver of the original Lumines release’s content in 2005, but thankfully for Buena Vista (now Disney Interactive), the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes into fruition. With an injection of extra skins from Lumines II, Lumines Plus plays 99 percent identical to the original iteration – and that’s initially a good thing, especially for gamers giving the series a first go, but not quite as much for those who already played the original to death.

While dropping squares of two colors down to form same-colored squares doesn’t sound too appealing off the bat, leave it to the creator of Rez to work in the aesthetics that really drive a player’s sense of sight and sound. When four identically colored pieces form a square, they do not disappear from play until a line panning from left to right sweeps over the piece with a speed reflected by the tempo of the music in any given skin (level).

Players clear each skin by activating blocks and combos to keep the music from looping, and once the track plays all the way through, game play transfers to the next skin. As with all puzzle games, getting through the songs and to the later songs requires skill and planning.

While waiting for the line to clear pieces from play, players can add even more pieces of the same color either on top or to the side to create combos for even more points. Special pieces with a blue jewel in the middle can be activated in a square and will also clear away every single piece of the same color that is connected either horizontally or vertically.

The most obvious piece of news to point out is Lumines Plus is not a sequel, off spin or new entry for the series – don’t expect anything more than a special edition of the original Lumines. Aside from the addition of “Plus” on the title screen and nine extra skins from the portable sequel, the endless, versus, time attack and mission modes are exactly the same as the PSP version.

The game’s skins not only feature a unique song to every stage of a player’s progress but also a backdrop that represents the nature of tune, much like a rhythm game would. While the menus still feature the plain, bland silver background and staring at blocks isn’t often too visually appealing, starting the game is the green light that puts the game’s presentation into fruition.

Not only is each of the levels’ backgrounds bright and “in your face,” many of them feature busy streams of animations that just want to draw the eye away from the action. Truly, no two skins are the same and they really represent the charm of the game and along with the game’s infectious music tracks (well, most of them at least), are the sole contributors of what makes the game’s presentation so great.

As a port of PSP game, however, Plus receives no real visual boost and due to the adjusted screen ratio, the console version seems to move differently than the portable version. The game’s constant action, moving backgrounds and flashing tends to block out these nuances, but it’s sad to see no extra punch was delivered to take advantage of the hardware and the much larger television sets players will be seeing Lumines Plus on.

Lumines Plus, of course, also carries over the interactivity of the music tracks with actions such as moving pieces left or right, speeding them downward and placing them having different audio effects that compliment the current song being played. Much like Rez, the music tracks in tandem with effects based on the player’s actions creates a hypnotic beam that moves Lumines from “just a game” to an “experience for the senses.”

When the PSP launched, in my mind, Lumines was the only game I wanted to play on the system and for good reason – it’s game play is simple, solid and addictive. Once a player presses the X button to enter an endless mode, it’s likely they will be glued to the screen for a good hour and that’s just for one game. With all of the unlockable skins, avatars and more, players are rewarded with dedication to the game in every single game mode.

Unfortunately for Lumines Plus, the title’s biggest crutch is that it is basically a game that is aging toward the two-year-old mark. Many gamers have already experienced this title and it’s unlikely a handful of extra skins will keep them absorbed into Lumines Plus as long as the original if they choose to put money down on the title once again. Owners of a PSP should be more tempted to snag a copy of Lumines II for its expansive set of new features and skins for only $10 more.

Not to say Lumines Plus isn’t a blast to play, especially in the comfort of one’s own home with a television and blazing sound system, but we’ve seen this package before. To its benefit, though, the versus mode is a lot more accessible now that two copies of the game and systems aren’t necessary. As far as benefits go, however, home comfort and accessibility are the only clear advantages for Plus over the PSP versions.

For Playstation 2 owners, Lumines Plus will definitely feed the need for any puzzle fanatic looking to get even more mileage out of the system. The original Lumines returns in all of its glory for a mere $20 and won’t disappoint fans of the series as well as players who never experienced the game the first time. While the game play never gets old, Plus falls flat just a little faster than any other game in the series and the lack of healthy, new material is a real sore spot on what could have been a exceptionally magical debut for the series on Sony’s home system.

Lumines Plus is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

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