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Lumines: Puzzle Fusion (PSP)
MSRP: $39.99
Number of Players: 1-2
Developer: Q Entertainment
Publisher: Ubisoft/Bandai

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Tetris is one of the most popular games of all time. It's simple to learn and manages to keep you entertained after seemingly millions of plays. The games that followed it -- Dr. Mario, Columns, et. al. -- have all managed to borrow some key elements, adding some of their own and been fairly successful and even somewhat addicting. Until Q Entertainment unleashed Lumines: Puzzle Fusion, though, there's been nothing as entrancing or magical as the original. Lumines is a direct descendant of Tetris, but manages to distance itself enough to truly stand alone among the many games that have tried to duplicate that combination of easy-to-pickup gameplay with those intangible hooks that keep you playing long past your bedtime.

The player controls the descent of cubes that are divided into different combinations of four squares of up to two different colors. By rotating the cube as it drops, you try to line the like colors up to make squares of the same color on the game area. Sounds fairly familiar, no? In Lumines, music is the new element in the mix. A vertical line scrolls horizontally across the gaming area in time with the background music. Only when that line crosses the created square do the pieces disappear. The object of the game is to time the creation of the squares with the sweep of the line across the field. Sometimes, special cubes will appear that have a "gem" in them. Creating squares with one of these special cubes will cause a chain reaction of same-colored blocks to dissappear from the gaming area, giving you more points in the process. As in Tetris, if the stacks of blocks reach the top of the screen, the game is over. It's much harder to describe than it is to play, believe me. A few minutes with Lumines and you'll be hooked.

One quirk unique to Lumines is that your square will split if its not supported on both sides. This allows you to drop pieces into those narrow ravines quite easily. While it eliminates suspended pieces blocking off places to drop your piece into, it adds more decisions about how to rotate and drop your square for the most effective creation of matches.

To refer to the music as background music does it a disservice. The music is as trippy and cool as the game itself. Unfortunately, the number of tunes is limited and will eventually get repetitive. And, speaking of backgrounds, the "skins" that provide the backdrops to the action are just as interesting as the music. Doing well in the game's challenge mode actually allows you to unlock new skins as you progress through the game. A "single skin" mode allows you to just look at one skin throughout the entire game, if you become attached to a particular one.

Lumines offers single players the aforementioned challenge mode (which is the basic one player game, with rotating skins and changing background music), the single skin mode (which keeps one background through the entire game) and a Time Attack mode which asks you to rack up the most points possible in 60, 180, 300 or 600 seconds. For two players -- connected through the PSP's included wireless connectivity feature -- a VS. mode is the game of choice. (Single players without PSP owning friends can play against the computer as well.)

As one of the PSP's launch games, Lumines offers a winning combination of easy playability, awesome audio and addictive gameplay. Sony couldn't have asked for a better way to answer Tetris for the GameBoy.

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