With PS Vitas
in short supply at this year's TGS, we were pleased to be able to sit down in a
quiet spot off the show floor and play the TGS demo of Lumines: Electronic
Symphony. From our brief time with the game, it looks like Electronic Symphony
is poised to be the puzzle game for Vita as the original Lumines was for PSP.
follow-up to such a simple, well-designed, well-balanced block puzzle is tough.
Besides updating the visuals and sound, what do you do? Well, Electronic
Symphony obviously has upped the ante on the overall presentation, but it adds
a few elements to the gameplay without disrupting the core mechanics or the flow
of the game.
primer on Lumines: it's a falling block puzzle where squares of four blocks
fall one at a time from the top of the screen, and you must match same-colored
squares of four or more (there are only two colors of blocks on any given
level). Blocks clear each time the sweeper line passes over them, and you get
more points the more blocks you can clear in a single sweep. It's from Rez
creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi though, so you know it's more than just a falling
block puzzle – there's a music and rhythm element too. The sweeper line, called
the timeline, moves to the tempo of the music in each level (so it moves slower
during a slow song), and of course the visuals also pulsate and change in
rhythm with the music too, the intensity of which escalates as your score
climbs higher and higher.
So what's new in Electronic Symphony? For starters, it
adds two new special blocks, called the chain block and the shuffle block. The
chain block clears all blocks of the same color that it touches and any other
blocks that are adjacent to those blocks within the same cluster. So if you
have a long snaking line of blocks that touch but don't form any squares, it
will clear them all. The shuffle block does exactly what it sounds like it does
– it randomly shuffles all the blocks within a cluster (clusters are any group
of blocks that all touch each other on the field). This might sound bad, but in
a pinch it can actually be a lifesaver. If your screen is almost full and
you're in danger of a game over, a shuffle can potentially create a bunch of
matches and clear more room on the screen.
play a bigger role this time too, and the avatar you choose determines what
kind of special power-up you get. As you play, a meter fills that allows you to
use an avatar power by tapping the icon in the lower left corner – in the demo, using the avatar power gave us a random
special block. You can fill up the meter faster by tapping your fingers against
the Vita's back touch pad, which totally works, but feels a bit silly and seems
like an unnecessary use of the hardware's features. At the very least, you can
ignore it if you'd like.
brief demo alone, it's clear that Electronic Symphony takes full advantage of
the new hardware, and the newly 3D visuals look absolutely amazing on the Vita
screen. As our score grew and the visuals got more and more intense, it was
impossible not to slow down and admire how gorgeous it looks in motion. Like
Mizuguchi's other works, it really plays with different visual aspects
creatively, like opacities and textures, dynamic lighting, and particle effects
(we're told there's a skin with a popcorn popping theme, which sounds like a
satisfying visual). And with over 50 skins confirmed for the game, there's a
lot more to look forward to. Expect tons of great music too, with licensed
tracks "Hey Boy Hey Girl" by The Chemical Brothers and "4 AM"
Electronic Symphony is planned as a launch title for North America and Europe,
so look for more info in the coming months.
Sep 16, 2011