Sony PSP: Frustratingly Beautiful

Lumines: The Unexpected Hit Of The PSP Launch

Publisher: Ubisoft
Number of players: 1 to 2

Oddly, the best game available at the launch of the PSP is the title that depends least on the machine's performance. Lumines is a mixture of a puzzle and a brain teaser, along the lines of Tetris, which you could really play on any portable console. There are no revolutionary 3D graphics here and no special effects, just flashy 2D. This apparent sobriety is amply compensated for by gameplay that's particularly addictive. Once you start, you won't be able to stop! From the first seconds of play, Lumines is clearly one of the best descendants of Tetris (if not the best) to appear so far. It's a real star in this PSP catalog.

The first surprise with Lumines is the many different playing modes - solo, two-player, against the computer, and Puzzle - some of them also offering variations. In solo mode, for example, it's possible to play in classic Challenge, Single Skin, or Time Attack Mode, which is more than enough to keep you occupied! But in all cases, you have to frenetically battle falling cubes, each made up of four two-color blocks. You have to arrange them, exactly as in Tetris, except that the colors are what are most important and the playing area is wider and not as high. The goal is to assemble squares or rectangles of at least four cubes to make them disappear, lower the level of your assemblage of cubes, and score points.

The ergonomics of the game are perfect: the pad on the left moves the piece laterally and accelerates its descent, and the buttons on the right turn it. The piece you need to place appears in the upper center of the screen, while the next three pieces appear on the left. The principle is simple, but once the game is started it's diabolical - things move insanely fast and the blocks quickly become a conundrum if the colors get a little mixed up. At first you panic, but with a little practice you get to where you can build astounding combos. Obviously from one level to another the difficulty increases, and the background and the block colors change too, just to keep the pressure on the player. And it's even worse in VS mode, with two players or against the console - the width of the screen shrinks as your opponent scores points, which is really rather nasty!

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