Much like Tetris has become the standard puzzler for the Gameboy systems, Lumines defines puzzle games for the PSP.
Instead of building lines, as in Tetris, you build squares of varying sizes, similar to Puyo-Puyo or Super Puzzle Fighter. This basic gameplay, in and of itself, does nothing to distinguish it from the puzzler crowd, though no one has ever complained about the puzzle formula before. The catch is that a Time Line passes over the playing field at varying intervals depending on the song you are currently playing. Your blocks will not clear until the line passes over them. This allows you to build your blocks in size, build mutiple blocks or just plain scramble to get a block cleared before you get a stack that touches the top. The larger your blocks and the more blocks you get cleared per pass, the higher your score multiplyer. This adds another layer to the basic puzzle strategy.
In addition to the basic challenge mode (play as long as you can), there is a puzzle mode which asks you to build certain shapes within a time limit. This can be challenging and requires a lot of though to get some of the puzzles. There's also a versus mode which you can play against another PSP-owning friend, or against the computer. In this mode, the player clearing more blocks gains more of the screen, giving the other player less room to work with. This tends to unbalance the game, as someone who gets down early will have a hard time clearing blocks with little space to create them in. Overall, for anyone who has enjoyed Tetris, Puyo-Puyo or Super Puzzle Fighter, the basic gameplay will be familiar yet rewarding and will provide endless hours of challenge and entertainment for the new PSP owner.
The game looks amazing, even considering its simple puzzle nature. The graphics are crisp, bright, and fit the high-tech feel of the PSP. As you progress levels the backgrounds and puzzle pieces change style and color. These changes are "skins" that you collect by advancing through the game.
The true defining element of Lumines is its sound. Each skin you pass changes the song played. The styles range from techno and rock to ambient sounds and something out of a Samurai fight scene. The music, by itself, is very good, and the constantly changing styles keep you from getting bored with any one tune. But what really pushes the sound above and beyond is that every move you make creates a corresponding sound in the music. So as you drop blocks and clear lines, you are essentially remixing the songs. Two people can play the exact same level and will have different sonic experiences. As the PSP itself has rather underwhelming audio output, it is highly recommended that the game is played with headphones to fully experience the audio component of the game.
While every fact of Lumines screams quality, it is still a puzzle game. Its fun and extremely addictive, as should be expected from a good puzzler. You'll play it for countless hours, but in the end you've just been clearing blocks. In the field of puzzlers it stands among the best of the genre, and that makes it a great game, and a must-own for PSP owners.