I Have Become Lumines, Creator of Worlds
Lumines is a Tetris-like puzzle in which square blocks fall inexorably from above and need to be rotated and stacked so that similar colors are grouped contiguously and disappear when the timing bar that sweeps from left to right across the screen passes over them. I play Lumines or its aptly named sequel, Lumines 2, whenever I have a couple of minutes to kill.
But, despite my fondness for the game, Lumines is not initially that interesting from a player’s point of view. There are tons of similar games. What really makes it stand out from its many doppelgangers is that its designers have considered the world it exists in fully, creating not a game but rather a playable exploration of a universe defined by two simple laws: the unrelenting forward march of time and combinations of these six blocks.
In the standard game, the blocks fall incessantly from the sky as long as the player can make space for them below. Simple variations include playing against another player or a computer opponent or playing against the clock. The real standouts, however, are the goal-driven variations in which the player must use the blocks as pixels to create pictures. This transforms the gameplay from Sisyphean race into visual puzzle. It’s as if the designers had stepped back and asked, “What can this world do?” In answering the question, they let themselves be ruled by the logic of the system they’d created rather than by some preconceived notion of what it should do.
Lumines is compelling because it exists within a universe that follows a set of internally logical and discoverable rules that govern its behavior, but it’s much more satisfying than Bejeweled and other similar games because its designers pushed those rules to their logical conclusions, leaving no possibility unexplored.