Lumines! Live

November 8, 2006

[i]Lumines[/i], one of the defining titles for the PSP, was heralded as one of the greatest and most stylish puzzle games in years. When it was announced that Lumines would make its way onto Xbox Live Arcade, people were thrilled that the game would be available through the ease of virtual downloading. Unfortunately, the developers have taken that thrill and dashed it across the floor with an incomplete, stripped down version of that seen on the PSP. Given that [i]Lumines Live![/i] only has a few options available from the start and the remaining game modes have to be purchased to make it complete, you wonder why Q Entertainment didn’t just release the full game in the retail market.

[i]Lumines Live![/i] essentially works just like its PSP cousin. The game seems to take a page from both Tetris and rhythm games. It has you stacking blocks up to form boxes of four or more pieces, all with catchy music playing in the background. A line moves across the field every couple seconds to scan your stacks and eliminate the blocks that have been placed together, moving with the beat of the music in the process. In fact, just about everything moves to the beat of the music and emits sounds, from moving your blocks to placing and lining them up. The sheer style of Lumines’s music qualities makes it enjoyable on its own, and almost qualifies it as the Dance Dance Revolution of puzzle games.

To say that [i]Lumines Live![/i] isn’t enjoyable would be a lie. The game is admittedly addictive and provides the same level of fun that the original incarnation had. The problem lies in that when you buy [i]Lumines Live![/i] (which is already pushing things at $15), you’re purchasing a stripped down version of the game that only includes the base game, time attack mode, and online multiplayer. Sure, it looks like there is a lot more to the game when you look at the menu options, which list puzzle mode, mission mode, vs. CPU mode, and an advanced play option. Upon further inspection, however, you end up only playing a few levels into each of them before the game informs you that you must purchase additional packages to unlock the rest.

And what a ridiculous concept the whole thing turns out to be. By the time everything has been released on the Marketplace, there’s going to be at least four additional packages to purchase according to the game’s website, and with the premiere Advance Pack already costing 700 Microsoft Points ($7.50), this does not bode well for the consumer. The positive thing about all this is that you aren’t forced to buy each pack to enjoy the game so you end up picking-and-choosing, but you can’t shake that feeling that you’re playing a cheap demo of an actual game that you paid 15 dollars for.

Again, all this doesn’t mean that [i]Lumines Live![/i] is any less enjoyable, but it does seem to lack some of the polish that the PSP version possesses. As you play through the base mode, which includes 12 music skins, the background will change every so often to reflect the new song. The musical choices in the game are enjoyable, although some tend to lean on the annoying side, either visually or musically. The PSP version contains about twice as many skins as [i]Lumines Live![/i] does, and for that reason, running through the game is considerably faster and can be done within an hour. Of course, the Advance Pack adds in 22 new skins, but that would cost you even more Microsoft Points in the process.

To its credit, [i]Lumines Live![/i] offers up some solid multiplayer gaming. While it is extremely annoying that many of the other modes are locked into digital downloads that aren’t even available yet, at least they didn’t skimp out on the multiplayer. Unfortunately, if you happen to get into a laggy game, the controls are severely bogged down, which isn’t helped by the fact that the controls are a bit sensitive to begin with, both on the d-pad and the analog stick. While the multiplayer is certainly welcome, it still has that small feeling of incompleteness. Another thing worth mentioning is that the game comes in full HD, which actually looks very impressive. Unfortunately, that still doesn’t seem like enough to warrant the price.

The ridiculous nature of this price-tier system that is offered makes the pure base game of [i]Lumines Live![/i] very hard to recommend at the price it comes with. One thing to mention is that since the less than positive backlash at the game’s launch, the game has been updated to remove the additional game play modes from the main menu. However, that still doesn’t make [i]Lumines Live![/i] out to be any less disappointing. If you don’t mind spending $15 for a severely crippled game, then you can still have some fun with [i]Lumines Live![/i], but in the end, the price-tier download system indicates that this game would have faired much better at retail than over the internet.

Score: 1/5

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