Lumox 2, from developers Laser Pirate Squad, is the kind of sequel that I love to see. Instead of going out and re-inventing the wheel for the sequel, the developers take a long look at the original, and some of the feedback they've received on it, and do it one better.
I reviewed the original Lumox back in the February Inside Mac Shareware feature. I was very impressed with the game, as it gave a great approximation of the original game, Lumines, which can be only had on Sony's PSP system. The gameplay was addictive, and the graphics were trippy. I took note of the fact that there was no sound, and a couple of other gameplay nit-picks here and there.
Imagine my surprise when Laser Pirate Squad contacted me with the news that they had released Lumox 2. I was excited to see what they had done with this incarnation of the game, and I was not disappointed in the least.The premise of Lumox 2 is the same as the original. By rotating blocks as they fall, you must align the colors of the falling 2x2 square blocks so that you get at least one 2x2 block of all the same color before you reach the bottom. Connecting more 2x2 blocks to any matching 4x4 color block will yield even more points. A sweeping line comes across the screen at ever decreasing time intervals. Whatever blocks you have lined up by the time the line touches them disappear, allowing the blocks on top of them to fall towards the bottom. Simple, no?
An addition that has been made to Lumox 2 is the three color mode. With this mode turned on, you not only have to worry about matching blocks of two different colors, but now a third is thrown into the mix. Sometimes it's hard enough getting a match with two, much less three. The new game mode definitely cranks up the challenge level of the game.
Another welcome addition to the game seems fairly cosmetic and simple, but believe me, I found it very helpful. That is the addition of smoke effects to the disappearing blocks. As I said, seems pretty superficial, simple eye-candy, right? Well, one of my complaints with the original game was that there was no feedback when bricks disappeared. They just vanished and the bricks to the top immediately fell into place. Later in the game, as the speed increased, it became harder and harder to know if the bricks you had placed had actually disappeared, making it difficult to keep track of your progress. Now, with the new graphical option, it becomes much easier to see when blocks disappear. As well, when you match bricks, the entire match is outlined in white, making it very easy to see where you need to drop more bricks to create a larger match set. Both of these options add immensely to the gameplay, and I thank Laser Pirate Squad for addressing this shortcoming of the original.
One thing that was noticeably absent from the original was a soundtrack of any kind. This has been taken care of, as well, in the sequel. Over 30 minutes of music, composed by Trademark, a group out of the UK, has been included in the game. The music has a sort of groovy trance-style feel to it, which really does an excellent job of pulling you into the game. As the level of difficulty, and the game speed, increase, so does the tempo of the music, making it that much more a part of the game experience.
Also with the addition of music comes the addition of trippier graphics. The background now pulses and moves with the music, sending a steady flow of graphical goodness to the screen, morphing with the soundtrack. If you were to turn the iTunes visualizer into a game, this is probably what it would look like. Not only does the background change, but the blocks change, as well. They change their shape, from square to round to smoky, shimmering shapeless blobs. The colors also cycle and shimmer, making the entire playfield seem like it is a living, breathing thing. It really draws you in, and doesn't let you go.
To accommodate a wide variety of system speeds and ages, the graphical options of Lumox 2 can be turned on and off. While any new system should be able to handle most of the advanced effects available in the game, this allows people with slightly older, less powerful systems to enjoy the game, as well.
As well-polished, fun, and addictive as Lumox 2 is, it is not without its flaws. The one improvement I would like to see is an adjustable amount of time before a block starts to fall from the top of the screen. It seemed on many occasions that I was just about to get the blocks lined up perfectly when it started to fall down screen, and I was either not watching close enough, or got caught by a protrusion of left-over blocks in the playfield, and was unable to place my block where I wanted it. Now, maybe I just need to practice and get better at it, but an adjustable time would not go amiss.
The other shortcoming of Lumox 2 is that, fun and addictive as the game may be, with the exception of the three color mode, there's very little else to the game. Additional gameplay modes would have been welcome, like a puzzle mode, or a versus mode that would allow you to take on a friend or the CPU. The proper addition of these two modes alone would add immensely to the replay value of the game.
For the $10 price tag, Lumox 2 delivers an excellent gameplay experience that is both fun and addictive. Fans of Tetris-style games, or PSP Lumines players looking to take the experience to the desktop, should definitely check this one out.
Pros• Exciting, addictive gameplay
• Superb graphics
• Excellent background music
Cons• Minor quibble with game mechanics
• Could use more gameplay modes