Ever since the original Tetris debuted on the Nintendo Gameboy back in 1989, Puzzlers and Portables seemed like a natural fit. After all, puzzle games usually lended themselves well to short term play and the versus mode first pioneered by the Game Boy version was a natural fit for the genre. Puzzle games have actually been released for all major platforms with varying degrees of success, but their frequency has been on the decline since no game released has managed to recapture the gorgeous simplicity of Tetris. Lumines, the launch puzzler from developer Q!, comes closer than any puzzle game in memory to matching Tetris's elegant brilliance. Oddly enough, it is also a mismatched fit for a portable gaming device thanks to its more drawn out pace. First, the basics: In Lumines, you arrange falling two by two blocks of four colors into a "well", a la Tetris. When you create a square of similarly colored blocks that is at least two by two in size, those blocks will vanish when a metronome marker that goes by the beat of the music passes through the playfield. If it sounds simple, it's because it is, and anyone who picks up the game should be able to understand the basics in minutes. Just like Tetris there are some more advanced / less obvious moves, and there is also a lot of potential for building combos and high score strings, but the game never strays from these simple mechanics. Adding variety to the puzzle trappings, however, is the game's soundtrack. The metronome bar that clears the screen actually moves in time with the game's soundtrack. The game also changes appearance, or changes "skin", by the game's description, depending on what song you play. The difference between skins is actually pretty dramatic. An upbeat tempo will clear the screen more often, giving you more breathing room while reducing your time to set up combos, while likewise a slower tempo will make you wait longer for screen clears but gives you extra time to setup collapsing towers. The appearance of the pieces and the background also change, often trying to coax you into a trance-like state through immersion of the senses. In this respect, Lumines is successful where very few games before have been: after repeated play sessions, you will find yourself slipping "into the zone" where you stop thinking and just start reacting. Puzzle classics like Tetris and Tetris Attack commonly induced such a state, and it's been a long time since this player has found another puzzler to inspire a likewise feeling. In terms of graphics, Lumines is hands down the prettiest puzzler around, but that's honestly not saying much. Still, the game has a dramatic flair and visual variety not seen in any other puzzle game to date. The aforementioned "skins", which change frequently in the game's meat and potatoes "Endless Mode", can change your puzzle pieces from jewels to LED lights in the blink of an eye, while backgrounds can quickly shift from light shows akin to what you'd see in your MP3 Player's visualizer to the lyrics of the song throbbing in time to the music. It's bright, it's colorful, it's mesmerizing. Sound, as you might expect from a game with a focus on music, is great. The game features dozens of skins, each with their own music track. Some of the tracks are honestly forgettable, but others will stick in your head with annoying clarity. The opening song "Shinin" was stuck in my head for days. Better yet, each time you move, turn, dissolve or land a piece, the game plays a sound that fits with the music, similar to the cult classic Rez. The effect further's the game's immersive qualities. Great graphics, great sound, simple yet great gameplay.. everything sounds perfect, right? Well, the game is not without its shortfalls. The game offers you a variety of modes, from a rather weak puzzle mode that has you building specific shapes or combos to a vs. mode that can be played against a human or a computer. Like any modern day puzzler, though, the alpha mode in this title is the challenge mode -- a marathon of block stacking, a regular survival mode. If you mainly played Tetris or Dr. Mario by starting at level 0 and seeing how high a score you could get before you couldn't keep up anymore.. well then, challenge mode is for you. It takes you through most of the different Lumines skins one by one, increasing the speed of the falling blocks at a frustrating rate. I say frustrating because, quite frankly, the difficulty curve of the game goes up maddeningly slow. Whereas a game of Tetris could be finished on a subway trip, a game of Lumines could last you through an entire coast to coast plane ride. A game of Lumines can last three hours or more after you learn to play the game well. Not only does that put your PSP at risk of running out of batteries if you're on the go, but it's an absolute downfall if you plan to play the game to constantly break your own scores. There is some solace, though: time attack sessions let you see how high of a score you can rack up in a set amount of seconds, and the computer versus mode is nowhere near as demanding of your time. Still, it seems that Lumines' bread and butter would be the endless Challenge Mode, but this is not a game you'll be getting into high score contests with your friends in, unless you all have a ton of spare time. It's disappointing to me that I can't get a session of this very addictive puzzler in during my lunch hour or during a wait at a restaurant, and considering the act of puzzlers on a portable machine is usually to provide an opportunity for the proverbial "quickie", it's a bit of a letdown. I still can't help but recommend the game, however, especially to those who have been looking for a new scratch to their puzzle itch. It's a slick puzzler with great production values that offers a truly unique experience. It's just that it's unfortunately paced for its intended platform.