Lumines II

Do you have fond memories of Tetris 2? Of course you don’t; puzzle sequels rarely amount to anything. Puzzle games either rehash content, thus removing any incentive to purchase, or try to invent the wheel, thus removing anything that made the original so much fun.

But the video game industry is a sequel-driven one, and puzzle games will be damned if anyone stops them from trying to milk another teat on the cash cow’s udder. So it’s no surprise that Lumines 2, the sequel to the sleeper hit PSP launch title, is now upon us.

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The problem, however, is that Lumines 2 merely rehashes content while totally destroying everything that made the original so captivating. The basic experience remains unchanged: once more players will lose themselves in a hypnotic trance as they attempt to rotate falling blocks so they form clusters of colour.

The time-line is once again present, speeding up or slowing down depending on the tempo of the song, and frantically trying to work around the time-line will one again induce unforced errors. Nothing has changed as far as the addictive gameplay is concerned.

However, Lumines can get away with little change, as a large part of the focus has always been on the skins and music. The Japanese original dubbed itself ‘puzzle and music’, and, indeed, the music was a large part of the charm. On screen actions resulted in altering the music, and the whole game just felt alive.

So all Lumines 2 really needed to do was include a whole bunch of new skins and ship itself out of the door. And that’s exactly what it’s done, more or less. However, the problem is that the care that went into Lumines is ominously absent from Lumines 2.

Far be it for me to criticise Q Entertainment’s motivation for creating a sequel, but it does seem like it had dollar signs in its eyes when creating Lumines 2. The evidence lies with the music.

Those who believe narrative is limited to film or literature are naïve or ignorant. A well-constructed piece of music can also make use of narrative. Indeed, the best albums are the ones that are constructed with cohesion, the ones that take you on a journey. Each song location is carefully selected, and listening to such an album on shuffle is pure blasphemy. There are obvious examples, like Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and then there are more subtle examples like Tool’s Ænima and Prodigy’s Fat of the Land.

The original Lumines was perhaps another example of such use of narrative. Each song was carefully ordered, and there was a real sense of progression and journey. The opening song, Mondo Grosso’s Shinin’, was a perfect introduction, and the pace of the game was delicately constructed, concluding with the beautiful and epic Lights by Eri Nobuchika. Without trying to sound pretentious, Lumines was the video game equivalent of a narrative album.

Lumines 2, however, is not. Instead it is a slapped-together combination of songs thrown together to try and justify another $90 or so that this game retails for. There is no narrative structure, there is no sense of progression; the songs just seem to be placed in some kind of random order. The returning veteran Industrialisation follows Genki Robert’s Heavenly Star, a completely inappropriate choice.

Which highlights another issue: the use of licensed and “popular” American songs. Their inclusion is sloppy: the tracks run in a linear fashion, unaffected by the gameplay; the grainy, low-res videos distract from the experience rather than augmenting it, breaking the hypnotic spell; and the sound effects caused by blocks seem lazy and thoughtless. Additionally, the crop seems completely ill advised, and is obviously aimed at trying to draw in the mindless masses that constantly expose themselves to pop radio and music television.

Honestly, what the hell is Gwen Steffani’s Hollaback Girl doing in this game? Popping up randomly, with no rhyme or reason in its timing, the song is the epitome of where Q Entertainment went wrong. Rather than try and put in the same effort that is apparent in Lumines, they sold out and cashed in. If Lumines was a narrative album, Lumines 2 is MTV.

Lumines was a classic because care was put into it. It felt like someone really loved that game before they sent it out to the world. Lumines 2 feels like someone at a marketing department rang up another person at a marketing department and asked what was hip with the kids these days. These songs aren’t timeless – they weren’t even good to begin with – and Lumines 2 suffers as a consequence. Even though the artistic presentation is superior to the original, even though the score is no longer capped, and even though it offers a selection of modes and improvements, Lumines 2 is soulless.

Consequently, it only comes recommended to people who must have more of the same Lumines gameplay. If you haven’t played Lumines yet, get the superior original – The Warehouse is currently stocking it for $30. If you own Lumines, you’ll really want to think long and hard about getting this one. It might have the same gameplay, but this is nowhere as near as enjoyable as the original.

"A soulless collection that lacks cohesion."
- Lumines II
Follow Own it? Rating: G   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 30 Min


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