Crossing the Steams 1.26.13: Lumines
Posted by Marc Morrison on 01.26.2013
411mania’s Marc Morrison explores the world of matching different colored blocks together in this PC port of a PSP classic.
Welcome to another edition of Crossing the Steams. I said I was going to write about Tiny & Big: Grandpa's Leftovers last week, but that fell through when Lumines dropped into my lap. Don't worry, I still intend to look at Tiny & Big, I'll just do it next week. Let's look at the utter majesty that is known as Lumines:
Lumines is a puzzle/music game, but more emphasis is placed on the puzzle elements than the music ones. A 2 by 2 squad drops down from the ceiling comprised of two different colors (or sometimes one color). You are to match 4 squares of the same color which can then be collected with the "timeline" (a bar that cycles every few seconds, in time with the music). There are only two colors per skin, so the first level might be red and blue, and after a few minutes, the skin (and song) will change, so the colors might be green and yellow, and the timeline bar will change speed a little bit.
The crux of the game is managing the two different colors though, and trying not to screw up. There is gravity to the squares, so if you put one on a ledge, half of it will slide down and fall onto the ground. This helps set up combo's for the multiple colors, as well as bigger area's to be cleared out when the timeline bar comes to erase it. It's also annoying though because you can really start to mess up and get overwhelmed, and its game over.
The only real power up in the game is a special "+" icon that appears in the occasional colored square. What this means is that if you successfully match the icon with three of the same colored squares, all colors that that icon is connected to will get erased. This lets you set up huge combo potential if you do it right, since you can eliminate most (or all) of one color, if you manage to link them all up. This also sets up a bigger combo, since all of the opposite colored blocks will likely chain together eliminating them from the playfield, as well as giving you some breathing room.
The music part of the game comes with the timeline bar, but also the sound effects that occur when you make combos, or even put down just regular blocks. It has a very "Rez-like" sound structure which makes absolute sense given that the game designer was Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who designed Rez, Space Channel 5, and Children of Eden. The synesthesia-like qualities of all of Mizuguchi's games shines through with Lumines, and makes the music/sound effects a critically important feature in the game (remember this for below).
All of this pretty much explains the fundamentals of what Lumines is. It's a neat puzzle game, in the vein of Tetris, only with more musical things going on.
….So….how's the PC version?
In a word, TERRIBLE sums it up fairly well. This might actually be one of the shoddiest ports of a game I've seen in quite some time, only matching the DMC 3 port job that Capcom did.
Here are the two big problems with it:
1. The audio on Windows 7 doesn't work, out of the gate. There is a work around to get it up and running, but it is kind of annoying (and wasn't even listed on the Steam forum). To get the audio working you need to go into your control panel, click on Sound, click the audio device that is your sound card/speakers, and select "Configure". On the first screen you need to select "Stereo" (2.0) sound, as opposed to 5.1 Surround. You click next, click next again, and click finish. This makes the audio in the game actually work…poorly. My laptop has 2 speakers in it, but also a subwoofer (for actual bass). With this setup, the subwoofer is eliminated, and the music sounds tinny and garbled. I also had a problem with my actual (sound card based) volume control program because it would *not* let me switch to just a Stereo output. So I have to close that out completely, and then load it back up when I'm done playing the game.
2. The other big problem is that of the resolution issue. The game only has two resolution options available, 640x480 and 960x540. That's it. There is a full screen option, but that only full screens the 960x540 resolution. Meanwhile my default screen resolution is 1920x1080. So even at the game's MAX resolution, it is half of what my actual screen is capable of putting out. There is no out-of-game way to fix this (that I've found), as there isn't any easily editable preference file, the game director is just full of DAT files, a basic readme for the game, and the OggVorbis license file.
Graphically, aside from the resolution issue, the game is decent enough. It's coming from an almost 8 year old PSP game, so that should be taken into consideration. The game is bright and colorful. I did one into some issues of the square colors really blending into the background. This made a few of the stages harder than they should be. One level, in particular, had so much video effects behind the gamefield, that I lost the game because my attention was drawn to that.
Audio is pretty solid, when it works. The music is all techno, but not especially beat-driven. Some of it is Japanese, and some of it isn't. The music fits into the game's overall style, and is a big reason for playing. The sound effects also tie into the game, and they all sound good. If you like sound effect-driven games, then Lumines has got your back.
Replayability is actually a strength of this game. Because it's a puzzle game, and if you actually like it, it has almost infinite replayability, if you so desire. Aside from the basic challenge (puzzle) mode, there is time attack, a puzzle, and a challenge mode to keep you further invested. There's actually a pretty decent amount of content within the game.
Ease of Use/Installation should be obvious at this point. To the game's (shocking) credit, it has Xbox 360 Gamepad support, and it actually works well. That's about it, though with nothing extra included with the game. A patch is desperately needed, but will never come.
All in all, Lumines is a good little puzzle game, filled with good audio, and some nice backgrounds. The problem is, the game's technical problems (no audio on Windows 7, and limited resolutions) heavily damage the fun you can get out of the game. What an utter disappointment.
Graphics -- 6.5 Simple, but identifiable. The problem is the new videos detract from the actual gameplay. The 960x540 resolution doesn't help either.
Gameplay -- 8.5 I'll readily admit that I'm not very good at Lumines, but I still appreciate it and have fun. It's rewarding to see your strategies come to fruition and you get a massive combo.
Sound -- 9.0 The big highlight of the game (when it works). Music is soothing but energetic, and the sound effects tie in nicely with the gameplay.
Ease of Use/Installation -- 2.0 To its credit, it can use a 360 gamepad well, and didn't crash. That's all it has going for it.
Replayability -- 7.5 Good selection of puzzle/mission modes, and near infinite replay value, if you get the game working properly.
Overall -- 6.7, which I'll round down to 6.5
Other Steam News
Three games listed, so here goes. Dungeonland got delayed till the next week on the 29th. See previous column for my thoughts on it. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed and Omerta – City of Gangsters are due on the 31st. All-Stars Racing is a sequel to the previous cart racer, only with elements taken from Diddy Kong Racer, with transforming vehicles. Omerta is a strategy game involving gangsters set in 1920's Atlantic City. Sadly, I doubt Nucky Thompson is going to show up in it. Next will I will look at Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers, unless something else comes up.