Rhythm games have a long and storied history throughout gaming, and Tetsuya Mizuguchi is one of the most important creators tied to it, having created such masterpieces as Rez, Child of Eden, the upcoming – and incredible looking – Tetris Effect, and of course Lumines. So it’s cause for celebration that the original Lumines, one of the PSP’s best titles, has found its way over to the PS4, with a new coat of polish and the same incredible gameplay.
For those unfamiliar, Lumines was a title first released in 2004 for the PSP, and it’s a block dropping rhythm game similar to games like Tetris, where you are tasked with creating squares of the same colour to sweep them off the board. The pieces get cleared in time to the beat of the songs and each song – or skin, as they're referred to in Lumines – represents a level. The gameplay loop is fairly straightforward and simple, but is nonetheless maddeningly addictive; the game is as fun now as it was 14 years ago.
By and large the only difference from then to now is a new coat of paint. Looking at the original game versus what we have now, the original release looks downright muddy when compared to the remaster’s 4K output – on the PS4 Pro at least – and the new look allows you to get into the groove better than ever before. The visual improvements aren’t all flawless though as some of the “skins” make it tricky to discern one colour from the other. It’s mostly only a problem during the initial level switches as going from one colour palette to the next can cause brief confusion. In particular, the “Shake Your Body” colour palette doesn’t offer enough contrast between the two colours of blocks you’ll see on screen. When there are a relatively small number of blocks on screen it’s not too bad, but as the grid grows more crowded, it can be something of a sensory overload. This doesn’t make the visual overhaul any less impressive, but more just frustrating that full advantage of HDR wasn’t taken to make the blocks impossible to confuse with one another, which most of the other “skins” do a good job of.
The soundtrack from the original is here in full too, which is nice, although it seems like a missed opportunity to have added one or two new songs into the mix – which, as far as we were able to determine, is not the case. However, at the same time, the songs are locked until you progress far enough in the modes, which for the most part isn’t how rhythm games really operate anymore. Games like Rock Band, and even Rez: Infinite made a point of having options for people who weren’t quite as good at rhythm games, giving them the chance to play everything included in the game without a barrier of skill. While this by no means detracts from the quality of the game or the desire to play it, it definitely feels like a system from a bygone era of gaming that didn’t necessarily need to be carried forwards.
Other than the visual overhaul, the only other new addition is the “trance” mode which utilizes the DualShock 4’s vibration settings to pulse to the rhythm of the game’s music, including allowing you to plug in additional DualShocks to include others in the fun. All in all, the new features added to the game are relatively sparse, but the core gameplay is so fun and so addictive that it’s not really any cause for concern. And the game’s low price point – $14.99 – makes it even easier to justify digging into the title.
The main challenge mode where you play the game in order is definitely the main attraction, but the other modes are at least worth a look. The puzzle and mission modes – which set you designated objectives – are a fun distraction, but the fact that they take longer to load than complete is irksome. The time attack mode where you have to clear as many squares as possible within 60, 180, or 300 seconds is also quite fun, as it offers a blistering, albeit brief, glimpse at just how frantic the game can get if you want to chase a high score.
And that leads to one of the games high points: it’s so fun and so addictive that the desire to chase just getting a new high score or squeezing in one more run to try and get one extra square cleared over the last time is reward enough. There are badges for your profile and Trophies to earn as well, but it’s not a game where the superfluous stuff feels like a necessity. Chasing that high score is enough on its own, and that’s a feeling games of this era by and large don’t offer anymore.
Lumines Remastered is a loving, wonderfully polished return of one of the best rhythm games of these past years. A couple irritating technical issues and a slightly archaic song unlock system aren’t enough to stand in the way of the wildly entertaining, timeless gameplay.