Lumines Supernova Review
The holidays are over and many are looking at a pile of bills that aren’t anywhere near as attractive as the gifts those bills purchased. Furthermore, with blockbusters like Killzone 2 looming large on the horizon, many gamers are looking to save their money in the interest of practicality. But at the same time, you want something new and fun to play, right? Then you had best log on to the PlayStation Network, which now boasts recent additions like Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 2 and Lumines Supernova. The latter is another installment in the critically acclaimed and award-winning puzzle series that has already captured the hearts of many old-school fans who were hooked on stuff like Tetris. And for only $14.99, it won’t hurt your wallet and it’ll still manage to deliver a huge amount of entertainment (even for two players), so Supernova is the epitome of “more bang for your buck.” None of this $60 entry fee and hey, you don’t even need to leave the house! Drop $15, wait about 45 minutes, and kick back…it’s worth it.
Even though graphics don’t matter so much in this genre – has anybody really cared? – we have to admit, the visuals on display in this downloadable gem are pretty darn slick. They’re not gonna outstrip the big-budget titles, but then again, they’re not supposed to, and Supernova still manages to impress. It’s extremely sharp and colorful, there’s great variety in backdrops throughout, and those little sparkling gameplay effects are just downright gorgeous. In many ways, this is very much like the next-gen Tetris: it’s a little more complex, and it uses crystal-clear graphics that actually make us smile. It’s somewhat difficult to compare it to other games where there’s character and world design, tons of animations, a huge amount of environmental artistry, etc, etc, etc. But considering the fact that Lumines doesn’t need to compete on this level, you really can’t ask for much more. We’re certain that the truly anal gamers out there will be able to spot a few drawbacks in this visual presentation, but for the most part, Supernova won’t disappoint.
The sound is even better, thanks to a fantastic soundtrack and a set of very cool sound effects. The best part is that although it can infringe on the gameplay just a tad, the setting and music changes from stage to stage, and you don’t actually stop playing. Therefore, there are seamless transitions between some very original tracks that are mostly crosses between techno and something akin to J-Pop. Most are surprisingly thrilling renditions that match the fast-paced action on screen, and the electronic-based sound effects also fit the atmosphere perfectly. Sometimes, the little ditty that continually pops up when we select something on the menu got a little annoying, and we weren’t the biggest fans of some of the more crazy, driving beats, but overall, it’s an excellent sound production. Puzzle games need the kind of sound that will help engross the player and keep him or her hooked for long periods of time; that’s the express purpose of any title in the genre. And thankfully, the music and effects in Supernova certainly help to intensify the experience, perhaps even more so than the graphics. Plus, if you ever get bored of the music, jump into the Sequencer and make your own!
If you’re not familiar with the gameplay, let us enlighten you: you control falling blocks (okay, that may sound familiar, but wait a bit) and your goal is to form squares of the same color. There are several factors that make this deeper and more challenging: the first is the fact that you can rotate the falling blocks, and they don’t start falling immediately; you have a second or two to plan your move. The second centers on how the blocks fall, because instead of a solid block remaining solid regardless of where it falls, it can split apart to fill in gaps. In other words, as each block consists of four small squares, you can drop two on the edge of a column and the other two will fall to the bottom if there’s nothing to stop them. This really adds a great deal to the player’s perspective because you have to look a lot closer at the squares you already have assembled; if you don’t, you’re liable to miss out on potential matches. The more squares you can string together, the better the results, and the longer you can go. It’s a smooth, fast, and endlessly entertaining experience, but it’s not all roses.
For example, the puzzle grid isn’t really that deep, you don’t have a lot of time to plan out a falling block’s path, and those blocks fall at a fairly rapid rate. When you combine all these factors, it means you have a game that tends to be a little more frustrating and overwhelming than it needs to be. The only saving grace is that small delay before a block starts to fall, and there will be a slight pause as a fully assembled square is erased from the grid. A vertical line that scrolls from left to right will take care of this, and if you switch to Advanced mode, it’ll pause long enough so you can create crazy strings. Of course, everything moves faster in Advanced mode, but that’s kinda the point. The good news is that you’ll get better the longer you play, and before you know it, you’ll find exactly the right position for all those particularly troublesome blocks. The bad news is that with only two colors, things can get a little repetitive, even though Q Entertainment tries to switch things up by changing the two base colors and background music for each new stage. Then again, if you’re tired of creating squares, how’s about trying something new?
See, one of this game’s most attractive features are all the modes and extras, and that includes six total single-player modes. The first is standard Challenge, which has you go as far as you can for as long as you can. The more stages you complete, the more Skins you can unlock. Then there’s the Skin Edit mode (which is exactly what it sounds like), the Time Attack mode (clear as many blocks as possible in a certain amount of time), Dig Down (that’s right, dig down as far as you can in a 20-stage marathon), Puzzle, and Mission. Mission has you completing all sorts of objectives, ranging from erasing all blocks in 1 move to any number of complex goals that will probably take about a hundred tries to clear. Puzzle, on the other hand, is the mode that lets you create shapes other than blocks; if you think the squares are easy, than try a giraffe! With all these modes, plus the Sequencer that allows you to create your own music (how sweet is that?!), you can spend a great deal of time with this game, and the longer you play, the more there is to discover. With a grand total of 40 Skins, 50 Missions, and over 100 different Puzzles, you could spend the better part of your natural life attempting to master this bad boy.
Lumines Supernova is a fantastic addition to the PlayStation Store and at only $14.99, it’s a steal. The longevity is just insane, and it’s not entirely due to the addictive quality of the gameplay. The two-player mode offers even more hours of fun, and with enough diverse modes to keep you coming back over and over again, you’re not likely to find a better deal for the money. Just don’t blame us if you start seeing little falling squares in your sleep…
1/8/2009 Ben Dutka