Lumines: Electronic Symphony PlayStation Vita Review

New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin somewhat reminds us of Q Entertainment's Lumines, originally released in 2004 during the Japanese PSP launch. Similar to Lin, this thrilling puzzle game came out of nowhere to become an instant sensation, easily outshining the more publicized titles (superstars, if you will) with its excellent blend of music and enjoyable block falling play.

Eight years later, we didn't expect the same level of shock and awe from Lumines: Electronic Symphony, the latest sequel currently available for PlayStation Vita, but there's plenty of sizzle. This is the same basic formula we fell in love with all those years ago, but with subtle tweaks to reignite our passion for the series.

To that end, the game's easily accessible for newcomers and veterans. Blocks comprised of four miniature squares fall from the top of the screen, and you must carefully arrange them around the play area to create 2X2 squares of the same color to make them disappear. The idea is to form as many blocks as possible before a Time Line (moving left to right) passes over the screen, thus scoring tons of points.

That alone is addictive, but the developers at Q Entertainment enhanced the experience with a phenomenal electronic soundtrack that gives the entire game a fun "club" vibe, as opposed to Lumines games past that featured pop artists. Even better, the backgrounds, all of which feature vibrant images and patterns, pulse to the beat.

Of course, tunes have been a staple of Lumines since the beginning, so what's new?

We'll start with the graphics, which received a welcome facelift. Now, instead of 2D backgrounds, you have some with 3D images and snazzier special effects. These stages, meanwhile, work in waves that change over time with the music, the idea to prevent tracks from growing stale and players becoming bored in the process.

In addition, the game includes 41 avatars, each of which comes with one of ten abilities that affect play, from slowing the speed of blocks to dropping a Chain Block (eliminates all like colored blocks) at will; you can build up your Avatar's attack by drumming along the rear touch pad during play.

There's also a Shuffle Block that randomizes whatever blocks it lands on. At first, it seemed like a curse until proving invaluable during crunch time, when we desperately needed to clear blocks to avoid losing.

A new Experience System, meanwhile, lets you earn XP for doing just about anything, which in turn unlocks more Avatars and Lumines skins.

Multiplayer wise, everything's offline, so you cannot play Duel with someone via the network. However, there's the intriguing World Block mode that challenges players around the globe to clear one giant block in 24 hours, definitely a welcome addition to the usual assortment of game types; you also have leaderboards.

All told, Lumines: Electronic Symphony is exactly what we expected and a little more, making it one of PlayStation Vita's must buy launch games. The excellent fusion of music and traditional block falling play continues to impress, reinvigorating the series and leaving the door wide open for even cooler sequels down the line. Pick this up immediately, and grab a pair of headphones while you're at it.

Review copy provided by Ubisoft.

What's Hot: Forty-three tracks, animated backgrounds with slick special effects, 41 different avatars with game changing abilities, a variety of enjoyable modes.

What's Not: No online multiplayer, imprecise touch controls.