Puzzle games have always been a go-to genre for me whenever I have the need to waste away a couple of hours in blissful pseudo-productivity. For some reason, there’s something soothing in being able to continually repeat a skill set and be rewarded for doing so.
I missed the Tetris boat in my youth, never really getting addicted to those falling blocks the way so many of my friends did. Instead, I played every iteration of the Bust-a-Move franchise that was humanly possible. I always thought the colorful popping bubbles were much nicer to look at as opposed to the falling blocks of Tetris.
When I first picked up a Lumines game in 2004, my puzzle world-view was irrevocably changed. The simplistic methodology and the catchy music made Lumines an addicting venture in handheld gaming. Electronic Symphony provides with more of the same, but it seems short on innovation this time around.
Lumines is a puzzle game where the objective is to line up matching color blocks in groups of 2 x 2 in order to make them disappear, adding to your score. Blocks fall from the sky much like in Tetris, but they all fall in 2 x 2 blocks of varying color combinations. The pace of the falling blocks matches up with the tempo of the background songs, which change at certain intervals during your playthorough.
Many features from previous Lumines titles make a reappearance, such as the life saving chain block, which eliminates all blocks of the same color that are connected. Electronic Symphony introduces the Shuffle Block, which randomly switches the colors of any blocks that are attached to it, bringing either instant ruin or a much needed salvation.
There is also a layer of personalization and customization, as you can pick and choose an avatar to represent you during gameplay. Tapping the avatar icon will call on a special power, for example, summoning a shuffle or chain block for the next set of blocks.
They also have a special effect in the multiplayer mode, adding a more competitive layer to the game strategy by incorporating more aggressive moves into the mix, such as speeding up the drop rate of opposing players blocks.
Electronic Symphony really delivers more of the same in terms of content and controls. The same basic mechanics hold up, even in the face of the Vita’s new touch screen and rear touch pad. But that’s only because the touch screen and touch pad are incapable of providing as precise of a movement as the directional pad can. That and using the touch screen necessitates blocking your view of the screen, which is disastrous in the more fast-pace levels.
Electronic Symphony does hit the nail on the head with the introduction of a leaderboard system. Players can compare their scores with players from all over the world and see how they stack up against the game’s elite. There’s also the opportunity to work with your fellow gamers to erase something called the World Block. The more blocks you clear in your own game, the more blocks you erase on the world block. By working together, players contribute to the World Block’s disintegration , and gain a hefty amount of experience points while doing so.
Lumines’s style is what sets it apart from other puzzle games, and this iteration one is no exception. Sparky and entertaining backgrounds are funky enough to delight, but not flashy enough to distract the player. The music from many famous electronic musicians help keep the beat and the flow of the game, either conveying a soothing sensation or an overwhelming tension as you struggle to keep the blocks from piling high.
All in all, Electronic Symphony does its best to provide the player with a simple, mobile base for ardent puzzle gaming. The menus are simple and easy to navigate, and the side challenges are all nice feathers in your Lumines cap if you can manage to master them.
And there’s very little as aesthetically pleasing as watching yourself come back from the edge of ruin and clear 10 sets of blocks at a time.
With all the convoluted, complicated, and time consuming games being released, its nice to see a game so simple in premise able to satisfy our gaming needs. Lumines consistently provides an addicting experience that makes it hard to put down once you’ve started playing regularly.
Though utilizing a disappointing amount of the Vita’s features, Electronic Symphony still shows the player how to have fun, even without all the motion control and touch screen bells and whistles. It doesn’t pretend to accomplish anything earth-shattering – rather it simply provides a wholesome and engaging gaming experience.
Just don’t be afraid to lose track of a couple of hours playing it, because you most certainly will.