Lumines: Electronic Symphony Review

Superb presentation and smart improvements to the Lumines formula make Electronic Symphony a great portable puzzle game.

Almost seven years after it was released alongside the PSP, Lumines is still a must-have game for the system. Its uncomplicated Tetris-style gameplay makes it fun to play for both short and extended periods of time, and its stylish presentation still serves as something of a showpiece for what the aging handheld has to offer. Now, Lumines: Electronic Symphony has been released alongside the PlayStation Vita, and while it isn't nearly as new and exciting as the first game was, it makes some noticeable improvements to the formula and might very well be the one Vita launch game that you're still playing a year or two from now.

As in Lumines, your goal in Electronic Symphony is to rotate falling squares comprising four small blocks so that blocks of the same color join to form shapes measuring at least two by two. You move blocks with the D-pad and rotate them with face buttons, unless you're a masochist, in which case you can try to do everything with the relatively imprecise touch screen. These blocks don't disappear immediately, but rather when they're hit by the timeline--a vertical line that moves horizontally across the screen at varying speeds. This line, along with the fact that hanging blocks succumb to the pull of gravity, is what sets the game apart from other Tetris-style offerings. You have to pay attention to the timeline at all times, because as it sweeps from left to right it changes the landscape of the playing field that you're dropping squares onto. Mistime a drop by even a fraction of a second, and you might end up with a pile of mismatched squares instead of points.

The primary mode of play in Lumines: Electronic Symphony, titled Voyage, introduces new audio and visual themes (known as skins) as you progress. All of them look great, and the 30-plus tracks from the likes of The Chemical Brothers, LCD Soundsystem, Underworld, and Goldfrapp belong on your MP3 player if you have a penchant for electronic music. At first blush you could be forgiven for thinking that the skin changes are purely aesthetic; there are still only two different colors of blocks, and they still fall in the same square formations, after all. The skins' impact on gameplay quickly becomes apparent, though, when you realize that both the falling blocks and the timeline move at different speeds. Slow-falling squares combined with a speedy timeline means you have plenty of time to line up blocks that disappear almost as quickly as you can drop them. Conversely, fast-falling squares and a tardy timeline can quickly see the screen filling up as even blocks that you've matched linger for a time.

One of the great things about the never-ending Voyage mode is that, as you play, skins don't get more challenging in a linear fashion. They appear in the same order every time you play, but the action ebbs and flows in a satisfying way as challenging skins that make it tough to keep your screen clear are eventually followed by more forgiving ones that afford you an opportunity to clean up. Also helping your cause are a couple of special block types that show up occasionally.

As you finish one skin, the next sweeps in seamlessly behind the timeline.
As you finish one skin, the next sweeps in seamlessly behind the timeline.

Chain blocks cause all touching blocks of the same color to disappear the next time the timeline passes by, while shuffle blocks randomize the colors of every block in the formation that they touch--even if said formation fills almost the entire screen. Chain blocks are always a welcome sight because they provide a one-two punch on the playing field; drop one so that it connects with a long string of blocks of one color, and when those disappear you're left with a stack of the other color. Shuffle blocks can seem like a hindrance at times because they mess up areas that you feel you've organized in some fashion. They're easily disposed of if you leave an area clear to drop them into, though, and can save you in a pinch because dropping one often matches blocks that would otherwise remain mismatched and buried.

In addition to the chain and shuffle blocks that randomly appear in your squares, you can use the touch screen to trigger a special ability that recharges over time. These abilities are a welcome addition to the Lumines formula because they add an extra layer of strategy, and which of the several abilities you have at your disposal is determined by the avatar you choose to represent you onscreen. There are more than 40 different avatars to unlock either by leveling up as you play or by meeting with other players via the Vita's "near" sharing option, but only a handful of different single-player abilities. These include triggering the appearance of chain and shuffle blocks, changing your next three squares to all be single-color, slowing down the speed at which new squares appear, and pausing the timeline temporarily. When choosing an avatar, you also gain access to a multiplayer ability for use in Versus mode.

Where Lumines' Duel mode incorporated an option to play against the AI, Electronic Symphony requires an ad hoc opponent. If you're familiar with the versus play in Lumines, the new abilities are the only noteworthy thing that has changed. The screen is divided in half by a vertical line at the start of the game, and it moves to encroach on the playing area of the player who is losing. As in solo play, the game ends when one player no longer has any space to drop blocks into. Duel mode is frantic fun, and it's sadistically satisfying to hear your opponent groan when he realizes that you've used your ability to randomize the rotation of his blocks, to make one of his blocks near-invisible, or to send an unwanted shuffle block his way.

Your favorite skins, of which this should be one, can be incorporated into custom playlists.
Your favorite skins, of which this should be one, can be incorporated into custom playlists.

When you're not playing against a friend or putting a couple of hours into a Voyage session in an attempt to climb online leaderboards, options include timed modes that last for between 30 seconds and five minutes, a challenging Master mode, and custom playlists comprising a random or handpicked selection of skins from the 40-plus that can be unlocked. Since Voyage mode takes such a long time to play and always presents you with skins in the same order, playlists afford you a great way to mix things up and to limit the amount of time you spend playing. Master mode is also a good addition, since it doesn't take nearly as long to get difficult as Voyage.

The original game's Puzzle mode, in which you were challenged to create various shapes from the falling blocks, is unfortunately absent, but Lumines: Electronic Symphony is still very much a complete package. The asking price of $39.99 ($35.99 if you download it) might seem steep, but months from now when you're looking to enjoy 30 seconds or multiple hours at a time with your Vita, Lumines: Electronic Symphony will still have you covered.

The Good
Simple yet deep gameplay that can be enjoyed for any length of time
Playlist and shuffle options are great additions
Superb and sizable electronic soundtrack
Online leaderboards keep you coming back
Impressive array of visual styles
The Bad
No AI opponents in Duel mode
Lacks original game's Puzzle mode
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Avatar image for Generic_Dude

I think it sucks how they yanked out pretty much all the additional modes -- no Puzzle or Mission Mode, no multiplayer of any kind, etc. -- that were in the Xbox Live version and then had the balls to charge four times more for it. Everything about the game is solid, but there's a paltry amount of content here for substantially more than they charged for way less like a year ago. In short, BUY THIS GAME USED IF YOU CAN. There's no way Ubisoft et al should be rewarded for this disgusting little cash-in.

Avatar image for painpas

Really good tunes. J. Milkman should be applauded. Nailed the feel of the first game and added some serious gems in the sound track. Download this game its a keeper.

Avatar image for Triangels

This game deserve a 9 but what I imagine is UBISOFT is really greedy company, this game can be priced easily at 19 dollar at least, game offers less than its 49 dollar price tag ( well here in Australia is about 50 bucks ) but sure the gameplay will last long enough and game has some interesting content but I still believe this game should be less than 20 dollar ... perhaps 15 would be enough

Avatar image for kunfushun

WHY THE PRICE INCREASE ON UBISOFT GAMES!?!!? LUMINES WAS $43 ON THE AUSTRALIAN PSN STORE NOW IT IS $52!!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!??!?!? I was going to buy it now I won't be.

Avatar image for LeFeverBeaver

Amazon just said they shipped this. I've been having a blast with the demo. Can't wait. Yea, $40 is a bit high of a price. The worst part, if I'm not mistaken, is that they removed the other Lumines games from the PSN. I'm not a 100% sure they were there before, but I think they were. I don't think I would have gottn this if I could have gotten one of the original ones for 5 or $10 though.

Avatar image for theshonen8899

I was afraid of getting this because I didn't think it'd be worth $40. After playing for hours and hours and hours, I'm sorely mistaken. I will be playing this game for years to come.

Avatar image for 7heDragon

Vita is full of mini-games that costs full price?

Avatar image for poncho174

This should be a 10 dollar psn download not a 40 dollar boxed game. someone is being greedy and trying to bank off the ps vita launch. what a world.

Avatar image for Raziel_0

now a bunch of 8.0 on VITA review,..can we expect the 9 score the next week?

Avatar image for stailcookie

C'mon.. It's the same game with a new soundtrack and it costs $40!!!

Avatar image for bronygamer

im getting this game as one of my launch titles i really hope i enjoy it ive always had fun with DS tetras but i thought id try something new for my ps vita

Avatar image for itchyflop

its different i ll give it that. i found the ps3 demo interesting

Avatar image for SadPSPAddict

Puzzle mode was my least favourite. I always enjoyed the frantic 1 min challenge going for high scores :D

Avatar image for albinopig

I didn't like puzzle mode anyway...

Avatar image for JustPlainLucas

I loved the game, but honestly, the lack of Puzzle Mode severely hurt it for me. I can only play Voyage so much...

Avatar image for Jynxzor

This game should have been packed in the with system hands down. Lumines: Electronic Symphony keeps me coming back, if you want to hear more about what I think of the game check out the System Wars Magazine on System Wars board. Note: I gave it a 9.5 This game will never leave my PS-Vitas memory card.

Lumines: Electronic Symphony More Info

  • First Released Feb 15, 2012
    • PlayStation Vita
    Lumines is a game for the PlayStation Vita from Ubisoft.
    Average Rating77 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Lumines: Electronic Symphony
    Developed by:
    Q Entertainment
    Published by:
    Matching/Stacking, Puzzle
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    No Descriptors