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LUMINES Supernova
Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Q Entertainment
Developer: Q Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:
Music is a big part of LUMINES: Supernova. Each level has its own trippy soundtrack that matches up with the visuals. In addition, the song's tempo determines the speed of the Time Line that passes over the block bin. Sometimes the songs are faster, clearing the field quickly, but giving you less time to place blocks. This also affects the speed that blocks fall into the bin.

As the blocks begin to stack up and you're in danger of losing, parts of the soundtrack will cut out, keeping to just the central rhythm. The effect is small, but ends up adding real weight to the game, almost as if the soundtrack (or game) was holding its breath. If you manage to knock your piles to a safe level, the soundtrack will exhale and kick back in at full throttle.

Backgrounds, or skins, go hand-in-hand with the music. As you progress through the game, the entire presentation shifts. Backgrounds change their appearance from one DDR-like background to another and the blocks switch to a different color scheme. The effect isn't as jarring as it sounds and adds a sense of progress that isn't seen in many puzzle games.

LUMINES: Supenova sticks to the same easy-to-understand gameplay as past games. In basic terms, the goal is to match up like-colored blocks into groups of four. As you match blocks, a line scrubs across the screen and clears away any matches you've made. This will either clear more room to drop new blocks or, if you're really good, setup chain reactions that will clear more blocks. Some blocks will clear any like-colored blocks that it may be touching, setting off even bigger combos. Knowing how to clear out large chunks of space at a time is key to advancing to the next level, or "skin." Any blocks that don't match will pile up. Once there's no room in the bin, it's game over.

Anyone who has already played a version of LUMINES will probably see Supernova as the same thing, but in HD. However, what makes Supernova such a great value is the amount of content. Challenge Mode is around and lets you keep playing as long as you want, while Free Play lets you set the skins you want to see and how long you want to play. On the more challenging side of things are Time Attack, where you have only a few seconds to clear a number of blocks and Missions, where you need to clear out specific blocks in a set number of turns. Finally there's Puzzle, where you need to use block drops to create pictures, letters and shapes.

So, yeah, these are modes that have appeared in past versions, but when you consider that the XBLA version charged extra for these modes, it's a good buy. But, for those who just have to have something new, Supernova brings two brand-new modes to the table. The first is Dig Deep, which challenges you to clear out two columns on a mix-matched grid of blocks in a set time. Sequencer is a music-creation system that lets you create your own music from a collection of drum beats, bass and other effects. You can choose parts, arrange them and then use them in games.

Competitive modes are available, though online isn't an option. The best you'll get are online leader boards.

In terms of challenge, LUMINES: Supernova is hard to pin down or define. How far you go in the game depends on how well you can place and manage the blocks - so there's a certain level of skill involved. At the same time, luck also plays a role. Will you get the right blocks? Will you be able to place them or clear them fast enough? It's a maddening mix of two different play styles that takes some adjustment.

The balance of luck and skill shifts depending on the modes. Modes like Challenge and Time Attack keep things balanced whereas Dig Deep and Puzzle are more skill-oriented. There's no guarantee that you won't get frustrated, but even if you get mad enough to kick the dog (please don't), you'll likely be back to tackle the challenge.

Game Mechanics:
There's really not much behind the game's control scheme. The D-pad moves blocks around the field, while pressing the face buttons rotates them. Although it's tempting to just use one of the face buttons to rotate the blocks, it ends up taking more time. It's advisable to get used to using both rotation types (left and right) in order to speed up building your combos. This also comes in real handy in situations where you don't have a lot of breathing room and need to lay down some matches in a hurry.

Another of Supernova's shortcomings, at least for vets of the series, is that it reuses several skins and tracks from previous games. There's a lot of new content, such as a LittleBigPlanet level (which is easily one of the game's most distracting areas), but you'll also see a few repeats.

LUMINES: Supernova isn't a flawless package, but for what you get for $15, there isn't a better deal for puzzle fans available on the PS3.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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