capsule review

Lumox 2

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One of my favorite games for the Sony PlayStation Portable is Ubisoft’s action puzzler Lumines, a falling blocks game that’s matched to an electronic music backbeat. Now that same style of play is available in Lumox 2, developed by Laser Pirate Squad.

If you’ve played Columns or Tetris or any of their countless variations, you know the basic gameplay mechanics of Lumox 2. You’re positioned on a grid, and there are falling blocks of different sizes and configurations. If you can match four of them together in a 2-by-2 square, you’ll make them disappear when a beam of electricity passes over them. Your goal is to keep doing this for as long as possible.

That beam of electricity continuously grazes the playfield, so you have a few moments to try to build combinations of colored blocks—any assembly of squares 2-by-2 or larger is eligible. When the beam passes over them you’re given points, and the remaining blocks collapse downward, making room for more shapes up top.

Just like Lumines, you find yourself slowly lulled into a hypnotic groove, thanks to more than a half an hour of chill house music crafted by Trademark. The gameplay is synchronized to the music—blocks fall in time. Backgrounds slowly coalesce and begin to transform before your eyes, as the colors and shape of the blocks you’re trying to match gradually shift and change, sometimes pulsing slowly, sometimes shifting their color and shimmering slightly.

In short, Lumox 2 is breathtaking just to look at, and very, very engrossing to play. There are literally thousands of variations of visual styles—it’s a bit like turning Apple’s own iTunes visualizer into a game.

You can adjust graphics settings to match the capabilities of your Mac—well equipped systems can handle some advanced visual effects like “smokey block” particles, score-filled particles and other effects. Game mechanics are simple to use—you can configure the controls yourself, or use the defaults, which map block direction, movement, and rotation to the arrow, control, and option keys. An option lets you play the game in windowed or full screen mode, and a “three color” mode adds another hue to the blocks on screen, for experienced players.

The game’s tempo gradually increases (in time with the music) over several levels to help keep you challenged, but I still found that tempo rather plodding. By level 9 or 10, I became frustrated enough that I started making stupid mistakes and getting distracted.

And outside of playing with the effects or turning the three-color mode on, there’s nothing in the way of different games within Lumox 2—a distinct shortcoming compared to Lumines, which ultimately proves itself to be the superior game.

That’s not to say there’s not a lot to enjoy in Lumox 2. I just kept wanting more. But for $10, there’s not a huge reason to complain.

The bottom line

For the Mac, Lumox 2 is a fresh take on the puzzle game. Its inspiration is obvious to anyone who’s played the superior Lumines on the PSP.

Tetris? Nyet! The basic gameplay mechanics of Lumox 2 should be familiar to anyone who’s spent time with a Tetris-style puzzle game.
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