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Game Preview: Lumines by Gameloft

May 12, 2006 in Mobile Phone Software

Lumines (pronounced lu-min-ess) is one of a rare breed of innovative and addictive puzzle games that come around maybe once every five years. The basic idea is simple: create a square or rectangle shape, and you get points.

After a great run on the Sony PSP gaming system, Lumines was then licensed to Gameloft, who if you don’t know is one of the premier game designers for mobile phones. Gameloft went and developed a java version which we’ll be looking at today.

Lumines Mobile for Java

Graphics

The graphics aren’t exactly what I’d call spectacular. If you break it down, the whole game’s made up of a bunch of squares as you can see in the picture. (note: picture not taken by me) It’s colorful but not terribly complex. Some of the effects are nice but overall fairly simple. One annoyance: dropping blocks seem to be a little choppy.

One of the biggest draws of Lumines is the use of skins. Skins control the music, design of the blocks and the overall “feel” of a level. Different skins have different music, may even have different color blocks. You can unlock multiple skins in the Java veresion by completing game modes.

Music

I have to admit, I’m a stickler for games that are ported to other systems. When I first loaded up Lumines, I almost choked and spit my gum onto the floor. It was just horrible. The comparison between PSP and Nokia phone is just…no contest.

Then I took a step back, loaded it up again for the purpose of this review, and you know what? It’s not half bad. Gameloft made do with what they had, and the end result is music that’s similar to Lumines’ PSP counterpart, in the same way that a MIDI sounds similar to an MP3. No, just kidding.

Gameplay

Ah, the bread and butter of the game. Lumines falls into the “a minute to learn, a lifetime to master” category of games. You could say it’s like a cooler, hip-hop version of Tetris.

The whole point of this mobile phone game is to make boxes. Squares, rectangles, whatever. As long as it’s a minimum of a 2×2 square. You start with a 2×2 piece at the top of the screen a la Tetris, and you can rotate it clockwise or counterclockwise or simply drop it. Now, in the normal Lumines game for PSP, there’s only 8 different drop blocks. However, the Java version introduces some new types.

Unlike Tetris, if you drop a block on an uneven surface your 2×2 block will split apart accordingly.

Bar none, the most important feature of Lumines is the timeline. Similar to music tracking software, the timeline is a vertical bar that sweeps across the screen from left to right, over and over again. As the timeline bar sweeps over boxes that you’ve created, you get a certain amount of points. Once the timeline reaches the far right end of the screen, the amount of boxes you made gets tallied up into your score count. It’s so simple it’s brilliant.

So what you want to do is create as many boxes as you can before the timeline sweeps over your creation for maximum points.

Like Tetris, you lose when the blocks reach the top and you can’t drop a block piece.

Lumines includes several different game modes: single player (basically play until you lose), puzzle mode, challenge mode, vs CPU mode, and time attack mode. Completing certain modes unlock new skins.

Controls

Slightly customizable – you can choose from different button configurations but you can’t change the set keys. Still, you only need a left, right, down, and two rotation keys so it’s not bad.

Compatibility
Lumines is designed for Java enabled mobile phones with “small screens.” (176×208). On the N90 the game is squashed to fit into 1/4 of the screen.

Overall Impressions and Conclusion

While the gameplay is a little less smooth that I wouldd’ve liked, Lumines is still a blast to play even on a Nokia cell phone. The game seems very well suited for mobiles, and the tunes, while only MIDI, is jazzy and catchy enough to keep you hooked.

Overall: Recommended

***

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