In working on various PSP
titles, I've come to a conclusion. The conclusion is as
follows: Sony needs to hunt down some better game designers.
Lumines has acquired acclaim and praise from the gaming
world, and not necessarily without merit. As games go, it's
got definite parallels to other games in its genre. There's
Tetris, there's Bejeweled, there's any number of
color-matching and shape-matching games that come to mind.
This is a game that the gaming community would - and by
rights, should - want to find, because when we look back on
puzzle games in recent memory we're still reaching back into
the 8-bit days if not beforehand.
That being said, Lumines has
failed to capture my attention in the way some of these
other games have. Tetris, I will still sit down and play. I
keep an Afterburner-modded GBA around for the very purpose
of playing Tetris and a few other old Game Boy cartridges.
Tetris clones are still fairly standard on mobile phones and
gaming systems, as well as having been ported over to every
conceivable computing device known to mankind. Likewise with
Snakes, and various rolling-ball puzzles, and even the
occasional Sokoban clone. But all of these games have what
Lumines lacks: complexity.
I'm going to compare this to
Tetris for now, but the same holds for Dr. Mario and most
other puzzle games as well. Where Lumines fails is that it
does not manage to hit the player with enough potential
options. Simply put, there are too few possible pieces, and
with the restriction on cubic forms, there are also too few
potential locations to deal with.
Take Tetris. There are in
Tetris seven possible pieces: the square, two L-shapes, two
Z-shapes, the T-shape, and the straight line. Other games
get around this by making the colors matter; Doctor Mario
had four colors to work with, even if each pill was only two
By contrast, there are only
four possible pieces in Lumines. There is the checkerboard
(alternating colors), the half-and-half, the 3-and-1, and
the solid square. Of these, only three really matter,
because the solid square eliminates itself immediately
unless badly placed. Furthermore, though the colors in
Lumines matter, there are only two colors at a given time.
Due to this construction, very rarely in the game will a
block ever be less than 50% immediately removable. Indeed,
that is the secret to playing a long-term game of Lumines:
the ability to make nearly every block instantly wipe away 4
or more bricks from the map. The only thing a player ever
need fear in Lumines is a continuous string of Checkerboard
blocks, which are the most difficult to place in such a way
as to get a quick block removal.
In Tetris, a continuous
string of any one block - ANY one block - can lead to
trouble for the player, with the possible exception of
straight-line blocks. Eventually, the player needs the
"right" piece, or has to give up a line in hopes of coming
back and solving it later. In Lumines, only one block can
cause this kind of trouble.
The other problem I've found
with Lumines is in the speed of the game. Tetris eventually
ends in one of two ways, depending on the coding of the
port: either the game speeds up to the point where the
control speed is insufficient, or it stops speeding up
slightly before that point and a quick player will be able
to play almost indefinitely. Lumines falls into the same
trap with its blocks, but the frustration is increased
because of the screen's dimensions. Where Tetris is taller
than it is wide, Lumines is wider than it is tall, and the
game falls apart around the time that the blocks fall
quicker than they can legitimately be moved to the edges.
Nice try, guys. I'll be
interested in seeing what you come up with next.
Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at) Glideunderground.com!
right here for everyone to see!