Before an angry mob storms my house armed with torches, rakes and stakes, I would like to make something clear. I adore Electronic Symphony. It is the game I played the most on my Vita, and rarely has a game given me such a blissful feel of sensory overload. Now that this is out of the way…
In Lumines : ES, your “avatar” (the character dancing at the bottom left of the screen) has a purpose. Activate it, and it uses its special power, which will benefit the player by adding some random blocks, shuffling the board or other effects. After use, this power needs to be recharged to 100% through the player’s combo bonuses. It is a lengthy process, as one combo adds 1% to the gage. This amounts to approximately 1% every five/ten seconds for a player with average skills.
However, the player can simply tap the back touchscreen to add the very same percentage to the gage. The tap is not limited in time. In other words, there is no latency or time to wait before tapping the touchpad again. Therefore, an average player could fill the entire power gage in less than thirty seconds.
Lumines: ES is a high-score based game. I personally play it to relax, but one could expect that high scores (and the way they are integrated with PSN friends) are what keeps some players coming back, to beat their friends’ high scores and reach the top of the leaderboard. This friend leaderboard is displayed on the main menu, from the moment you start the game.
What ties the flaws together is the simple fact that avatar power influences your score. It can get the player out of a lot of tricky situations, or multiply his/her combo, leading to an increased score. The fact that tapping is a very effective method of regenerating the power turns it from simple tool to necessity. Players aiming to reach world leaderboards, or just to impress their friends, will most certainly need to tap the back of the console maniacally to refill the power gage as fast as possible.
The ergonomy is worth mentioning. Curving your fingers around the system for repeated taps will loosen your grip and make the system’s face buttons much harder to reach. The best answer to this, I suppose, is having a friend sit next to you to take care of the relentless tapping.
Summing things up… The mechanic is physically inconvenient and can be subverted. It is imbalanced. It has a great influence on the final score, forcing the subversion on all players who would desire to climb up leaderboards.
One could guess that this feature was shoehorned into the game at the very last minute, following Sony’s request to make the most out of the Vita’s capabilities.
However, it may not be such a problem for hardcore Lumines veterans who grew on all the game’s iterations without the need for powers (only introduced in ES). Touching the avatar is a very short process, but that can cost some precious hundredths of second to very quick fingers at the fastest game speeds. This is why the most advanced players might ignore the tapping altogether, as it may prove detrimental to their style of play.