Lumines, oh Lumines. How I love my Lumines. The first game was my original PSP purchase, brought home with me on the day I bought Sony's ill-conceived handheld and it was one of the few games I always returned to. Until Lumines 2 came out that is; once that hit the market I bought that up and never touched the first one again. Then I proceeded to sink hundreds of idle hours into that addictive piece of music puzzle greatness.
But then a thought hit me why did I prefer the second game? There were some superficial changes made to the game itself but personally none of the changes or additions to the game ever mattered to me. All I wanted was the basic game package itself and the music. Since the second game had better music in my mind that was the one I was interested in. There was no purpose buying the game for Xbox 360, PC or any other appearance it's made as I already had the ideal version of the game as far as I was concerned.
What does this have to do with Lumines Electronic Symphony? As one of the first games on the PS Vita it sits proud, calling out to new gamers and fans of the series alike, attempting to entice them with its wiles. But how valuable the game is to you will greatly depend on how you feel about essentially buying slightly updated versions of the same game.
To anyone who hasn't played Lumines before (shame on you!) let me explain it. You have 2x2 blocks comprised of various colors and a grid to place them on as they lower from the top of the screen. When four blocks form into a square or rectangle formation they will group up, being destroyed by the line that crosses across the screen (how fast it does so varies by level). Your goal is to destroy the blocks before they fill the screen while trying to build up lots of points by creating plenty of block groups the bigger your groupings or the more individual ones that you have, the more points you get when the line clears them out. It is this simple gameplay that induces that much desired zen-like state that allows you to sink hours into the game without realizing it.
That is basically the only problem with Lumines, it's still the same as it ever was. Not much has been added to the package to really draw vets of the series into returning to the same well once again. As a matter of fact the main gameplay mode is bizarrely easy. My first time out I spent an hour and a half playing without ever even coming close to losing before just quitting out. If you want a challenge the master mode will do this but, conversely, this mode is almost insanely hard. It's like having a choice between easy and insane difficulty levels with no normal or kind of hard mode.
Actually there has been one addition but it's more of an interesting spin on the previous games' skin unlock system. Whereas in previous games you unlocked skins (the color / music combos that make up the game screens you play on) by playing the game and reaching those stages, here you do so by earning experience. This is done by destroying lots of blocks, making big combos and checking in on the new world block mode. Any time you play any mode in the game you contribute to breaking a humongous block that players across the internet are trying to bust down. If you manage to do so everyone who participated (read: played online) gets bonus XP. As you level up more skins unlock making it an interesting variation but not really a huge addition.
One thing to avoid is even attempting to use the touchscreen controls. While the addition is appreciated, and makes navigating menus quite simple, it's useless for gameplay. The screen is quite responsive but it just doesn't match the quality of gameplay you get from using the d-pad and buttons to play the game.
Almost more important than the gameplay is the music. So how is it? That depends on your taste in music. Most of the music in the previous games was a blend of techno, electronica and a little bit of trance. This seems to cleave heavily towards the light electronica and trance music to the point that it can lull you into a sleepy daze if you're tired. That's the only reason I quit the game, falling asleep at the helm is a bad way of playing this sort of game. If this is music that you really like though then you'll probably get pulled into that puzzle game zen even easier.
But don't let this complaining about the non-evolution of the series stop you from buying the game if it sounds even remotely interesting. This is a solid purchase with addictive gameplay, vibrant visuals and a fantastic soundtrack. Personally I'm still playing the original Tetris and don't see the point in all of the various updates so take my opinion on this game with a grain of salt if you're interested in the game.