It was after a three and a half hour session that I figured out why it’s called “trance” music.
Two puzzle games created by famous developers were constantly compared to each other at the start of the DS vs PSP rivalry. Nintendo fans had Meteos, a Masahiro Sakurai joint, while PSP owners had Tetsuya Miziguchi’s Lumines. As Sakurai has largely been confined to the Smash Bros. dungeon since with a brief interruption for Kid Icarus Uprising, Miziguchi has had opportunities to refine Lumines to a fine point. And with the passing of Sony portables, Nintendo fans have the opportunity to strap in for one hell of a ride with Lumines Remastered.
Lumines is a simple game on the surface. 2x2 blocks in two different colors drop from the top of the screen into a large pit. Unlike most puzzle games, the pit is more horizontal than vertical. As the blocks drop, the goal is to line up the colors so they form squares, which get wiped off the screen as a bar (known as a “timeline”) sweeps across clearing everything in the way. The more blocks that get removed, the higher the score. The timeline moves to the beat of the music, so consecutive stages (“skins”) might have entirely different tempos. A multiplayer option exists as well, in which two players share a well but the player who does better gets more room to maneuver.
As befits the title, Lumines Remastered is a modern remaster of the 2005 PSP game, with a couple of minor changes. The original Single Skin mode has been removed, replaced with the “Skin Edit” mode from Lumines II (PSP, 2006) in which a playlist of up to 10 skins can be queued up for play - though the option to just play one is included in that. Avatars are also available to represent the save file, but the 48 of the original title have been replaced with 44 avatars from across the rest of the series. It didn’t bug me as I stuck to the default for my character anyway.
Remastered has plenty of options for getting your groove on. Most of the time will be spent in the Challenge Mode to start, as that’s how most of the skins are unlocked. The Basic Mode works like the Marathon Mode seen in some Tetris games, where there is a fixed goal, but an Endless mode is also available. A Shuffle mode comes online after clearing Basic for the first time, which flips through all of the skins unlocked to that point.. A Time Attack option is available, with the fixed 10-minute mode being shrunk to either one, three, or five minutes. Puzzle and Mission modes are available, as well as multiplayer both against others and the CPU. Unfortunately, the multiplayer is local only and no online multiplayer is planned.
Technically, the game runs smoothly. I didn’t really notice any dips in framerate in testing all of the Switch modes, though it felt like the load times were longer when I was playing undocked. Much was made in the pre-release about the ability to use “Trance Vibration” with the Switch version, using up to 8 Joy-Cons paired to feel the beats. This feature works as advertised - even tucking two Joy-Cons into a high shirt collar was enough to get a wonderful neck massage as I moved into later skins. One annoyance of the Switch came into play; the lack of a fully functional directional pad. Even using the December 2017 model (Xenoblade Chronicles 2) Pro Controller, with its supposed fixes, still had a few too many incidents of accidental drops in the wrong spot because I was trying to move a block left and it registered it as “up”. The Joy-Con directional buttons actually performed better in roughly equal testing.
I didn’t have any issues following the graphics, which are simple to follow. Generally, the block colors are neutral (white, grey) paired with another color, so those with issues distinguishing colors should be able to proceed through most of the game fine. (Affected players should check from the 38:06 mark of this playthrough video, and please advise if there are issues differentiating.) The music is high energy, and Miziguchi is one of the best in the business at creating background music that keeps the urge to play high. There were several times during the writing of the review that I had to put the Switch down and force myself to finish writing it.
The demand for puzzle games on a system that can be played anywhere is always high, and Lumines Remastered is a shining example of what the Switch can do with them. Using the “HD Rumble” feature as a way of enhancing the music is a stroke of genius, and all I can hope for now is that the Lumines Effect makes way for the Tetris Effect on Switch in short order.