Version tested Mobile
Lumines on PSP was almost universally revered. Almost, but not quite. For some people, it was simply too much to spend upwards of half an hour going through the early levels over and over again to get back to the bit that beat them.
We can sympathise if you felt that way. We can sympathise, but we're not going to. You are fourth rate humans.
Anyway, there's no need for us to sympathise because it turns out Q Entertainment and mobile developer Gameloft already do. And with Lumines Mobile, available now for virtually every handset that could conceivably run it, it has tried to solve that niggling issue by including a raft of new, shorter modes alongside the traditional, brilliant long-form one.
Lumines - in case you've missed out on all the hype - is a falling-blocks puzzle game played on a grid 16 squares wide and ten tall (something the mobile version maintains, too). There are two different types of block - red and white - and your goal is to create squares or rectangles of the same coloured blocks, which are then removed from the play area each time a vertical line sweeps across.
Coupled with some lovely electronic music and added to by little gem blocks, which allow you to delete all of the same-coloured blocks they're connected to when you make them part of a square or rectangle, it's ludicrously compulsive gaming. It takes a bit longer than Tetris to 'get', but it outlasts virtually all other pretenders. Unless of course you're a fourth rate human.
In which case there are those new modes, and they help place Lumines Mobile, which would have been marvellous without them, in the top ranks of mobile phone games.
There are several. Arcade mode splits the game into ten stages, each comprised of a couple or more smaller levels set on a different "skin" (a level with a particular background and musical element), with the occasional "boss" stage. Here you and the CPU play on the same screen separated by a vertical divider, and the idea is to delete blocks quickly to push that line away from you and force the opposing player to work in cramped conditions, under greater pressure.
There's also a Vs. CPU mode, which is like the boss stages, and would have, we expect, formed the basis of an excellent multiplayer mode - although sadly Lumines Mobile doesn't offer that.
Not content with those alone, Lumines Mobile also offers the traditional single-skin mode (for playing any of your unlocked skins - i.e. levels), a shuffle mode (unlocked through Arcade progress, allowing you to play the normal long-form game but randomly alternating between skins), and a puzzle mode, where you try and match the shapes shown on the screen with your block constructions. That one's quite hard, actually, and I spent more time on the other modes as a result (being a third rate human myself).
Of course none of this would mean anything if Lumines didn't basically work on a mobile phone, and the good news is that it does. I played through it on a Nokia 6230i, which is hardly space-age next to some of the cancer-spreading monstrosities people keep whipping out next to me on the Tube, and although the graphics sometimes struggle to keep up with rapid button presses the game never misses any of your input. This is critical, because it enables the kind of lightning fast block-positioning the game needs. It also helps that the controls are simple - 4 to move left, 6 to move right, 8 to move blocks quickly down, and 2 and 5 to rotate them. If you have a d-pad, it's even easier, and you ought to be able to play two-handed, which is a definite plus.
The only thing that's a bit of a shame - and it's a real shame actually - is that the music isn't better. Unlike Lumines PSP, it doesn't seem to react to you, there are scant sound effects to go with it, and the whole thing is basically delivered through midi files, which might sound alright as background music on a Geocities fan site but don't really inspire you to get your headphones out.
Fortunately, you probably won't mind too much - not only is this Lumines on a mobile phone with new modes, it's Lumines on a mobile phone with new gameplay features. In many respects, it feels like a sequel.
Because while Lumines had two colours and gem blocks, Lumines Mobile has a third colour, introduced after a few rounds of Arcade, as well as differently shaped groups of blocks. You can have Tetris-style S-shapes and three-long rectangles to deal with, and they make a big difference to how you play and the patterns you need to spot. There are explosive blocks, which take out all the blocks along the same vertical and horizontal axis, and neutral-colour blocks you too. These things, more than anything, ought to endear it to fans of the PSP game anew - and with the PSP sequel still a few months off and no sign of Lumines Live for Xbox 360 either, this could be the only way you get to experience this stuff for some time.
Good thing then that there's virtually no sitting on the fence about it. Lumines Mobile costs three euro. That's THREE EURO. Why it isn't THREE EUROS is something my single-currency chums haven't explained to me convincingly but I'm willing to let it go. The point is, it really is ridiculously cheap. It might not look or sound quite as nice as the PSP version, but there's more content here than you usually get in full-price handheld console games - and just as much love too.
Some caveats snuck in there, then, but hopefully nothing that'll put you off. And if by some chance the fence hasn't shattered beneath your anticipatory buttock-rumble, look at it this way: I've got every DS and PSP game imaginable, and I'm quite happy to sit here and play Lumines Mobile instead.
9 / 10
Lumines Mobile is available now from www.gameloft.com/lumines-mobile for the frankly ridiculous price of €3.