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PSP Review: Lumines II

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I am utterly stumped. I don't know what to say.

How is it possible to cram more — much more — game play modes, options, skins into Lumines II, and sell it for less than the original? Someone, quick, tell Mizuguchi-san and Q Entertainment they will run the industry into the ground if they keep this up.

All kidding aside, Lumines II has, without question, done the impossible. Imagine if Tetris 2 was better than the original Tetris – or if Super Mario Bros. 2 had somehow eclipsed Super Mario Bros.

These things just don't happen. Version two in a franchise many times falters as an awkward teething release, trying to figure out what to do next. Not Lumines II.

Lumines was one of, if not the, launch title to buy with your PSP. If you are not familiar with the game, here is a short rundown:

In Tetris-style fashion, blocks fall from the top of the playfield. They only fall in squares, with light and dark colors making up different combinations. It is your job to rotate the falling blocks to make combinations of four-by-four (or more) like-colored blocks.

Adding more blocks on top of a combo will create a chain, and net you big points. There is also a special block, which will chain all like-colored blocks when combined in a combo.

Across the top of the screen, a "timeline" scrolls by and deletes any combos that you created.

It is pretty simple, and utterly addictive. Lumines II gives you 60 skins which feature (mostly) new music and visuals, including over ten artist skins from the likes of Beck, Black Eyed Peas, Junkie XL, Gwen Stafani, and more.

It is going to take some time to unlock all these in Challenge mode, which has changed somewhat from the original game. Broken into four different sections, (one locked at the beginning) each section has a different difficulty setting.

The 999,999 score ceiling that a lot of players hit in the original is gone, and it will be interesting to see if anyone can hit 9,999,999. But beyond upping the score ceiling, not much has changed. Depending on your point of view, this is a good thing.

The only gripe I have with the game is the omission of the auto-save feature, which the first game had. Now you must hit Start to save your progress.

Mission mode is brand new, having you complete stages by clearing all blocks in three turns, for example. Puzzle mode, which has you creating shapes like apples or UFOs within a time limit, has been expanded to include even more challenging images to create.

Versus CPU mode has seen a slight change from the original; it is a little easier this time around. This is one of many changes made to broaden the appeal of Lumines II.

The game supports Game Sharing, but only for a demo. So you will need two UMDs for Duel Mode, where you go head-to-head against a friend. The object in the versus modes is to create more combos, and take over your opponent's side of the playfield.

Other sharing includes the ability to send created playlists to a friend. The game also features a sequencer where you can make your own music, which can also be shared with others. The sequencer is pretty basic, but is sure to be confusing to anyone who has never played around with applications like GarageBand or even advanced software such as Reason. But fiddling with the instruments is the best way to get into it, and you can make some fun tunes this way.

Just like in Every Extend Extra, you get a cross sell demo here too, but this is not a bad thing, as Every Extend Extra is a lot of fun.

Just like in Every Extend Extra, there is a video tutorial of how to play. There are also tips, 21 in all that can be really helpful.

The list of features is getting pretty long, but we are not done yet! The last bit is a database that keeps your score history, a data miner's dream of your personal Lumines II history. Maybe that isn't such a good thing?

With so many modes to play, updates and additions to old modes, this is an easy recommendation to any puzzle fan. It doesn't matter if you played the original Lumines or not, you are going to get your money's worth here.

Lumines II is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Lyrics, Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes.

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