First off (to prevent any embarrassment in stores), the game is pronounced “loo-mi-nes” and is one of the most interesting, challenging puzzle games seen on a handheld in a longtime. Lumines is the latest in gravity-fed Tetris derivatives, and easily one of the best since Tetris itself first pierced the iron curtain back in 1987. Like all puzzle games of its ilk, Lumines is simple and addictive - your little sibling will be able to pick it up and figure out how to play almost immediately.
Unlike Tetris, all the blocks are square, but each is subdivided into four independently moving smaller squares which are painted one of two colours. The goal is to stack together at least four smaller squares of identical colour together. Once you have a solid group, the constantly left-to-right moving “Time Line” will pop those squares like a wiper blade, allowing the ones on top to fall down. Just like Tetris, the goal is to avoid stacking your blocks all the way to the top. Since you can rotate the squares, the math majors out there have already figured out that there are only six possible block combinations. Don’t let that simplicity fool you, though; while it’s possible to play and have fun right away, you’ll eventually discover deeper strategies. With a wide playing field and the ability to see the next three upcoming blocks, you’ll really need to start planning out some in-depth stacking strategies to do well. You don’t just get faster at Lumines, you get better. Aside from the addictive gameplay, what Lumines really has in spades is style. Dozens of different skins give the identical game a whole new look and feel. From Edo-style samurai paintings to flashing spaceships to distracting dancing silhouettes, Lumines keeps your eyes flying. One skin even goes so far as to mimic an old monochrome LCD screen. Nice. Be sure to wear your headphones while playing or you’re missing out on half the joy of groove inducing techno beats. While the gameplay remains the same throughout, there are a number of different modes. The main one is clearly Challenge Mode, where you play as long as you can and rack up high scores to unlock new skins. Time Attack lets you see how many blocks you can pop in a fixed amount of time and Puzzle Mode changes things up a bit because the goal isn’t to pop blocks but to build a series of more intricate shapes. There’s also a two-player VS mode where you take part in a cool anti-tug-o-war where the screen is split down the middle, with each of you stacking blocks on either side. If you do better than your opponent, you will slowly control more and more of the screen, giving him less room to work with unless he manages to push back. An addictive, sensory delight, Lumines is an easy PSP recommendation. So go down to your local store and order it properly... by name, of course.