Ever since it was first announced at this year's E3, Lumines Live has been one of the most anticipated Xbox Live Arcade games. For months eager Xbox 360 owners have been waiting for some sort of sign that the game was still on the way, a possible release date or something that would end our long wait. After half a year of silence Lumines Live is finally upon us, and it was worth the wait … sort of.
When it was first released on the PSP last year it was hailed as one of the best puzzle games ever made. The game combines a great mix of addictive game play and toe-tapping music to create a game you won't soon grow tired of. On the Xbox 360 Lumines manages to keep most of what made the PSP game so memorable, but due to some control issues and an incomplete set of modes, Lumines Live comes off feeling more like a disappointment, rather than the great puzzle game it is.
Before you invest your 1200 points (or $15) it's important that you know what you're going to be getting. Unlike most Xbox Live Arcade games, when you buy Lumines Live you won't be getting all of its components. While you can still play the challenge mode, time attack mode and versus mode, there some of the other parts of the game have been limited in hopes that you will buy optional upgrades in the future. For a game that is already more expensive than most other Xbox Live Arcade games, it's a shame that if you want to get the most out of your purchase you're going to have to shell out another $7 - $15.
At first glance Lumines might look familiar, tying together elements from a number of other popular puzzle games over the last twenty years, but it won’t take long before you see how unique this game is. Q Entertainment has managed to combine puzzle games with the music genre, a recipe that could have gone horribly awry without the proper supervision. Thankfully Lumines doesn’t have that problem as it’s programmed by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the mastermind behind Sega Rally, Rez, and Space Channel 5. Here he and his team are able to take a good idea and turn it into one of the most addictive games you will ever play.
Lumines is the type of game where it’s easy to learn the basics, but impossible to master. It takes a simple theme and twists it enough to where it challenges you to think in a whole new way. Square blocks fall from the top of the screen in a number of different color patterns; it is your job to connect four of the same colors together to make a square. Every so often a vertical line will move over the screen from left to right effectively wiping clean any square you have made out of the colors. You have a limited amount of time to make as many boxes out of the colors before the line comes and wipes them clean, forcing you to work fast and plan your block placements several steps in advance.
Thankfully the creators have made this task a little easier by only making you worry about two colors at a time. Although the colors will change as you progress through the game, you are never asked to work with more than two colors at a time. The challenge is purely in figuring out how to get the most squares made before the game wipes them away.
What sets Lumines apart from the rest of the crowd is that it keeps changing the way the game looks. As you progress through the game you will unlock new skins, which not only changes the graphics but also gives you different songs to listen to. While Lumines on the PSP offers you 40 different skins to play around with, this Xbox 360 version only offers twelve. Most gamers will be able to unlock all twelve of these skins in their first time through, and if you're good at the game you will end up seeing these skins several times before the game ends. Q Entertainment is hoping that the Xbox 360 owners will want to invest a few extra dollars to download more skins and music, but with the game already retailing for $15 it's hard to justify only packing in a dozen different skins.
While the main attraction is the game's challenge mode (where you play until you lose, always trying for a new high score), it isn't the only way to play Lumines Live. There's a time attack mode that gives you a certain amount of time for you to score as many boxes as you possibly can. You can also try out the game's puzzle mode, which gives you a number of different shapes to create using your different colored blocks. This mode is vastly different from that of the challenge mode, but some gamers may find it a fun diversion from the stress of beating your high score.
Lumines Live is not just for single players, it also allows you to play against all of your friends (and perfect strangers) online. In the two-player mode you both share the same board, depending on who is doing better their side will increase, while the other player has to deal with a smaller section to work with. While I’m sure there are people that enjoy this dynamic, I personally hate the multiplayer aspect of the game. The average two-player match only lasts a few minutes, and if you get behind early there's practically no way for you to come back.
Just like the PSP game you can also play this multiplayer mode against the computer, which isn't bad if you're already a fan of the multiplayer mode. Oddly enough there are only a few different levels in the Vs. CPU mode, the rest you will have to buy when they are available on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
Although the game is essentially the same as it was on the PSP, the graphics and sound have been slightly upgraded for the Xbox 360. The game has a nice new hi def (720p) look to it that looks stunning on my television. On top of that the music is just stunning, thanks in large part to the system's 5.1 channel support. Hearing the outstanding music all around me was a real treat, but I couldn't help but be a little disappointed that there wasn't more music in the game. As more music, videos and skins hit the marketplace this won't be a problem, but it's sad that players who already spent $15 will have to fork over even more money just to get a decent variety.
While the Xbox 360 managed to improve the audio and video portions of Lumines Live, I found the controls to be a bit unruly when compared to the PSP. The biggest problem is that the game just doesn't feel right on the Xbox 360's control. The D-pad is too small and not very responsive, while the analog stick just doesn't work for this type of game. I found myself opting for the analog stick in hopes that I would eventually get used to it, but even after spending many hours with the control I ended up making simple mistakes I would never have made on the PSP's pad.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about Lumines Live, on one hand I'm excited that I'm finally able to play one of my favorite puzzles games on my television, but to do so comes at a high price that frankly isn't worth it. With control issues, only a handful of skins and a $15 asking price, it's somewhat hard for me to say the game was worth the wait. Those gamers out there that don't see themselves buying a PSP should check the game out to see what all the fuss is about, but everybody else should just pick it up on the PSP … or simply wait for Lumines II to hit stores in a couple weeks.