It doesn’t look much. Kinda like Tetris in a disco shirt. You won’t want to buy Lumines dinner, but you will want it to scramble into your brain, set up home there and begin battering your think-pipes with its mad-hammer. Beware: Lumines is one infuriatingly, filthy-dirty, addictive monster of a puzzle game.
Play is stupid-simple. Blocks, made-up of four squares, fall from the top of the screen. There are only ever two colors in play at any one time and there are only four styles of blocks. You can spin the blocks as they fall and the idea is to create groups of at least four squares of the same color. These sections will glow and then vanish when wiped by a sweeping horizontal "timeline." Vanishing blocks means points and most crucially prevents them building further up the screen. With a mound of badly ordered blocks the time you’ve got to make your decisions is ruthlessly short. The real world around you crawls to slow-mo. The screen remains terrifyingly fast. Your arms tense and cramp. Welcome to the crushing claustrophobia of certain defeat.
It sounds like hell. And it would be if not for frequent moments of sublime satisfaction. Clear a group of blocks and any above them come crashing down, often creating another massive wipeout. There are also special squares which when used as part of a four will take down any touching blocks of the same color. Tactical use of the special squares can mean a cataclysmic screen-clearing explosion of goodness. Misplacement of a special square leads to the agony of watching as the last hope for victory is slowly buried by an erratic checkerboard of pain.
Lumines’ soundtrack really defines the game. Successes and failures influence the tempo and swell of the synthetic Japanese pop. Ranging from the superbly deranged to the pleasingly listenable it’s almost good enough to exist as a musical commodity on its own.