Dreams of redux.
Euphoria flickers your mind away. Two-toned squares vibrate and descend with a gravity matched by the pulse of an electronic harmony. Colors bounce off each other in psychedelic pitch, a rhythmic static that quivers against your eardrums. Their magnetic vibrations, with every glint that radiates out like the beams of a strobe light, stimulate the wonders of your deepest dreams. Soon the squares begin to dissipate, fading into the symphonic ether, and suddenly, the only resonance you can hear is the echo of the trance. Your senses become the energy around you, within you, without you. There, in that moment, you are truly free.
This is how Lumines is supposed to feel. It's the reason hardcore fans play Lumines with headphones or, better yet, an ear-shattering sound system. The best video games always have those moments when you get into the zone, when all the thought that goes into the gameplay becomes so automatic that nothing around you matters. I enter this state of mind usually about an hour into most games, but for Lumines this happens within twenty minutes. Lumines Electronic Symphony is no exception.
The trouble, however, with this launch title for the PS Vita, as with most puzzle games, is that the puzzle rules tend to be so rigid that there's little room for innovation. Lumines Electronic Symphony plays exactly as you would expect it would: drop square made out four colored blocks, make squares that disappear when the line passes over them, and appreciate how the graphics and the gameplay change to reflect the beat and mood of the soundtrack. As before, special chain blocks will eliminate every block of the same color that's connected to it, like in Columns, and will usually save you from meeting your untimely end.
Similarly, the shuffle block will randomly alter the color of every block connected to it, though its effect tends to be more detrimental than beneficial. A grid that's about to overflow benefits the most from the shuffle block as it will usually form more than several squares out of pure luck. By comparison, a relatively open grid, probably when you've found a nice groove and wisely incorporated some infinite block sequences, almost always suffers. Most of the time, shuffle blocks exist just to mess you up.
Also new this time around is being able to activate an avatar's special ability, once you've completed enough squares, by tapping the avatar on the screen. Whether it's creating a chain block, a shuffle block, or some hang time before a block drops, these abilities can get you out of a tight spot. Hopefully, this opens the possibility of a deeper single-player mode, maybe with fuller RPG elements, in future Lumines titles.
Avatars also have a special ability for dueling, but this versus match type can only be done via ad-hoc. In fact, there's no online multiplayer mode whatsoever. The only feature that comes close is the daily online goal presented by the World Block. Any squares players form in Lumines Electronic Symphony contributes to the gradual destruction of the World Block. So if every player around the world plays enough within a day, the World Block will be destroyed and award an experience bonus to everyone who contributed.
Other than that, there's just not much else to talk about. You can test yourself in Master mode, create a customized rotation of songs in Playlist mode, and rush to get a high score in Stopwatch mode. Experience points are earned regardless of which mode you play and will unlock additional avatars and skins. That's about it, though. So if you're an expert like me, who can go through all the skins in main Voyage mode in one sitting, the experience will feel far too short.
Lumines Electronic Symphony doesn't fuss around with twists and turns with the core puzzling concept, sustaining that psychedelic synesthesia which sparks our continued adoration for the series. Merely on an aesthetic level, there's hardly any other Vita launch titles that is as stylistically gorgeous both in sound and graphics. If you've never been convinced by Lumines before, though, Electronic Symphony won't change your mind. As for the rest of us, our minds were made up before we even had a thought.