Lumines: Touch Fusion Review

We wanted to love Lumines; we really did. We’ve been following the games’ rise from an offbeat PSP hit, to its outstanding (and maybe under-appreciated) sequel, to its price-gouging cousin on the Xbox 360, and even its lighthearted, simplified mobile version. Each time, despite unexpected costs and varying visual quality, it was still the same Lumines: block-dropping goodness set to killer beats. The iPhone has had its clones (the closest being Blocks 2, later redubbed Irides), but they’ve lacked the musical aesthetic that makes Lumines, well, shine.

With the iPhone’s crystal clear display and terrific aural fidelity via headphones, creating a new version for Apple’s music-centered device was a no-brainer, and we thank Q Entertainment for appeasing our insatiable desire for more Lumines. We sadly, however, cannot wholeheartedly recommend Touch Fusion due to a truly unacceptable control scheme that all but breaks the game.

Techno Tetris.

Let’s be clear: Lumines: Touch Fusion is playable, but the game’s total reliance on tap and swipe controls (a problem that Iredes fixed months ago with an on-screen directional pad) makes precision and speed nearly impossible on a consistent basis.

The goal, for the uninitiated, is to rotate blocks (each comprised of four smaller blocks), aligning them to create squares or squared-off shapes of the same color or pattern. Blocks hover at the top before dropping (a la Tetris), with you rotating them as they descend. A vertical line sweeps across the screen at regular intervals, timed to the beat of the music, so your block configurations must be complete before it passes. As you rack up the points, the music and background (called skins) change, things speed up, and the difficulty increases.

It’s full of stars!

The problem with the touch controls in this case is that the game has a difficult time interpreting the difference between a tap (to rotate) and a swipe (to move horizontally or vertically). Horizontal movements come fairly easily, but vertical swipes are hit or miss. Sometimes a swipe gets interpreted as a tap, and a block will inadvertently rotate, causing chaos amidst your colors. This is unacceptably frustrating, and it interrupts the rhythm, which is the game’s biggest draw.

Sure, the new songs are great, and the skins are fantastic, with tons of animation and life, but we would have liked to see more content before being asked to dish out extra bucks (the first skin pack, comic-themed, will run you an additional $1.99). Modes are unlocked through play, but don’t look for the puzzle modes or multiplayer that you may have become accustomed to in previous iterations. Single lap, endless lap, and timed challenges are the name of the game this time, until theoretical updates come down the pipeline. After the uproar over the nickle-and-diming on Xbox Live, we would think this couldn’t possibly happen yet again, but it looks like your $2.99 is buying you an incomplete experience.

With a patch adding virtual pad controls and perhaps some new modes, Lumines: Touch Fusion would be well worth your money; it has the potential to suck you in for a long time. But as it currently stands, you’re better off sticking with one of its tried-and-true predecessors.

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