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Lumines II


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I think I've played enough of Lumines II to offer some thoughts on it. In fact, I'm glad I've played it as much as I have because before today I wouldn't have felt as positive about the game. More about that below. I should say that I haven't played the 360 version, so some of this might be redundant to those who have.


As you probably know, the basic gameplay remains unchanged* from the original. I had been hoping there would be some tweaks to the mechanics of the game, but it occurred to me that all too often, great games are ruined by changes to gameplay. And I think this is especially true of games with very finely balanced mechanics, like Lumines.


That said, I wouldn't mind seeing a change to the gameplay in a future version, with the caveat that they should leave an option for the 'classic' version of the game in case it sucks. One change that might be interesting is to throw in a 3rd color of blocks.


Anyway, the main difference from the original Lumines is that there are many more modes of play in LII. What used to be a single "Challenge" mode in LI is now divided into 3 difficulty levels initially. What is puzzling (pun intended) about these is that the difficulty between the levels doesn't seem to be very different. In fact I found the 'expert' difficulty to be easiest, the middle level to be the hardest, and the easy mode in between.


Originally I was discouraged to discover that each difficulty level had it's own skins and not very many of them. I haven't counted them up, but each level had about 15 to 20 skins. What was disappointing is that you can't play a single game through all the available skins, as you could in LI. Well, my disappointment proved unfounded when today I unlocked a new mode called "Enduro" which essentially mimics LI in letting you play through all the skins in challenge mode. Whew! It does seem like the difficulty overall is raised a bit, which was something I was hoping for.


After playing LI so much, I must say it's refreshing to have new skins (although there are a few repeat skins from LI). And just like LI they range from pretty ugly to absolutely gorgeous, leaning more toward nice looking ones than ugly. I'd guess about 10 of the skins are music videos, but you hardly even notice because the game requires so much attention. A couple of the tracks I have to mute because the music is interminable, but it's not a big deal to me.


The graphics have been bumped up a notch, the animations are smoother, the skins do more, and the blocks in some skins have intricate animations running on their faces.


Another new mode is called "Mission" - in this mode the board is already populated with a certain setup of blocks, and you are required to clear them all in a given number of steps. For example, in the first mission, the board looks like this (there are two spaces between these blocks):



X 0

X 0


and you are given one piece with which to clear the board:





Obviously, all you do is rotate the piece counter-clockwise one step and drop it down.


There are 15 "Missions" total. I've only cleared the first 4, but it's quite fun and quickly begins to get quite complex.


"VS CPU" mode returns from LI but is somewhat easier now. I was able to clear about 7 or 8 CPU opponents before getting to one that was too hard to pass. One nice thing is that you can now continue with the opponent you last lost to, so you don't have to go through all of them each time you try.


I haven't tried online play yet.


One thing I was hoping for was more statistics about gameplay, and to my surprise LII offers it! Under the "Database" option one can find statistics for each mode of the game (including the Enduro challenge mode), and also some very general overall stats like total play time, and total skins unlocked. The stats for each challenge mode are: High score, max blocks erased in a single pass, number of erase-alls in one game, number of single-color awards in one game, and consecutive bonuses in one game.


Overall, I'm very happy with the game despite it being so similar to LI. I can't really complain about the lack of changes since the gameplay was so damn good to begin with. I'd say anyone who liked Lumines I would certainly like II, and with the new modes you might even find yourself liking it more.


*There may actually be a subtle change to the gameplay, but I'm undecided. In LI there was a slight lag between connecting a group of blocks to dissolve and the blocks being 'ready' to dissolve. This led to the common experience of connecting a group just before the line swept by, and having the most recently connected blocks not get dissolve. In LII there is still a lag, but it feels like it's shorter. Meaning you can connect a group of blocks and still have them dissolve even if the line is fairly close. But I can't be certain it's a change in timing, or a change in the animation. Although on many occasions I've sworn that the timing is actually different.

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One update.


Mission mode is both less complex and more sizable than I reported. Once you complete the first 15 missions (which turn out to be pretty easy), another 15 are unlocked, and once you clear those, 20 more are unlocked. They are getting harder, but so far none of them are serious stumpers. Not sure if there are any more after this.

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