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A throbbing beat is pounding through my skull while half-heard emo lyrics play somewhere in an abandoned viewing screen of my brain. My hands are numb. I feel jittery, a little hungover, and completely thrilled.
Lumines Remastered will do that to you. A classic puzzle game originally from 2004, this renewed version of Lumines is a chance to explore the synesthetic joy of a game that was beloved, but niche, in its time, and deserves to be remembered among the greats.
So, first, there’s 俄罗斯 方块. You know how 俄罗斯 方块 works. Blocks, streaking down a vertical screen, with the goal of the player arranging the blocks in orderly grids. Lumines complicates and expands those ideas. First, make the play area larger, then replace the blocks with multicolored cubes—and then set the whole thing to loud, throbbing music, putting every moment of play into sync with the beat. The result? A puzzle game reimagined as a frenetic party.
The game’s specific magic, though, is property of its pedigree: studio Enhance, Inc. is led by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who first conceived of both Lumines and its spiritual siblings, 2001’s Rez and 2011’s Child of Eden. Like all of Mizuguchi’s games, Lumines aims to transform the player’s perception by blending sound and color and sheer verve to inspire a sort of synesthetic hypnosis: forgetfulness of where you are, who you are, and really anything besides the energy of what’s happening on the screen.
俄罗斯 方块 is a sacred cow in the games industry, and only a few major titles have succeeded at iterating on its design; Lumines, which remembers the pleasure of humming the 俄罗斯 方块 music and builds a whole game out of that joy, is probably the best. First released on the PlayStation Portable in 2004, it deserves to be as well-known as the genre’s titan, but I worry that, outside of hardcore players, Lumines doesn’t quite reach that level of prestige.
Lumines Remastered, though, offers players a chance to understand what makes this game so brilliantly addictive. Inspired by the headphone jack on the PlayStation Portable, Lumines was a paean to what excellent sound design can add to a game—a design built from the ground up to take advantage of the console Mizuguchi called an “interactive Walkman.” And now, the remastered version comes close to recapturing that original vision. It’s a game that distills and disperses both the joy of music and the cool of well-designed tech. Like so many ports, Lumines Remastered feels incredibly well suited to the technical alchemy of the Switch—though it’s almost as good on a PC, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One.
Just watch out for the constant controller vibration. It’s a doozy.