For two games that are pretty much nothing alike, it’s suprisingly easy to find yourself pondering the differences, large and small, between Tetris and Lumines. Yes, one is a marathon while the other is a sprint. And yes, one is about things that collapse while the other is about things that, often maddeningly, remain fixed in place. Playing Lumines Remastered over the weekend, though, sat cross-legged on the bed as though it was 2005 all over again, I was struck by a new point of difference – or rather an old point of difference that I had simply never really noticed before. Something about the texture of your mistakes, I think. Oh yes, it’s this: your mistakes feel very different in Tetris and Lumines.
A mistake in Tetris is a terrible thing indeed. This is because of the sprint-like nature, I guess, the fact that Tetris is really the survival horror of the puzzle world. Mistakes stick around in Tetris for a very long time: those gaps remain in the bedrock beneath you, a bit like a group of old friends who are always ready to remind you of a terrible faux pas you made when you were 12 (just me?). The mixture of sprint and fixed in place means that Tetris doesn’t forget anything. And it in turns means so much of the game is spent trying to undo earlier mistakes in a bit of a sweaty panic. And of course, because you’re in a sweaty panic you make more mistakes. Tetris thrives on mistakes.
So does Lumines, I think, but in Lumines your mistakes are often on your side. Lumines isn’t about building a wall to unbuild a wall, it’s about growing territory of a certain colour. You rotate the coloured sections of the blocks that fall so that the two colours for each stage will match up harmoniously before the timeline sweeps through. This is why some people get a bit bored with Lumines. They think you can beat the game indefinitely by dividing the screen up into sections and storing block types in specific silos, and inching your way to victory. I have never played golf, but I wonder if these Lumines min-maxers also turn up at Pebble Beach in early Spring or whenever it is people play golf and ask Ed “Porky” Oliver – I Googled him – if he’d considered just faxing the ball over to the hole.
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