Fancy doing some Lines with me?
Video games! When you’re not murdering people and monsters (sometimes the people are the monsters!) you’re building and managing settlements. Sometimes you’re solving puzzles to get something for a person! This is the case in the vast majority of games, but the best selling game of all time doesn’t have some facsimile of the real world, being utterly abstract in its theme. If you hadn’t guessed yet, it’s Tetris. Now, I’m not suggesting that the game I’m writing about today is the new Tetris, simply that abstract games are often overlooked in spite of the monumental success they can have.
Lines is an abstract puzzle game about paint (not about watching it dry thankfully). You begin with a set of grey lines in a certain shape (diamonds, fences, bizarre abstract formations) with a couple of coloured blobs placed randomly. You need to place one or more blobs of your own colour on the shape before watching the colours spread and fill in the grey area. Whichever colour fills the greatest area wins and claims eternal glory. Until the next level anyway.
The basic premise is very simple but there are certain aspects that can make it a bit more difficult. The levels themselves are often hard to read and you need to determine what colours will go where once they begin to move. Occasionally there will be multiple opposition colours that add an extra challenge. Will blue block me off from that path? Can I place my second point so that yellow can’t get to that junction before me? For such a simple premise, there’s a surprising amount of depth. Later levels introduce different mechanics, such as removing opposing colours instead of adding your own, or creating an additional line to allow your colours to get ahead of others. There’s been quite a bit of thought put into these different modes, and unlocking them is a simple case of completing 10 stages from the previous mode. Very nice!
Each mode has 50 levels, so there is plenty of content available. At first, only 35 levels are unlocked for a mode with the final 15 being unlocked by acquiring trophies and it’s here that I find one of the few areas I disliked. You can earn a bronze, silver or gold trophy on each level by winning it several times in a row. Want a gold trophy? Well you’ll need to win the level 10 times in a row. Won 9 the lost the 10th? Well back to square one with you! This was quite annoying when trying to unlock all the levels, and once I’d gained a gold trophy to get to level 50 I gave up on the repeated wins altogether. This problem extends to the daily challenge as well, which must be won 3 times in a row, but a single loss locks you out of it until the next day. It makes sense for the Infinite mode, but it annoyed me elsewhere in the game.
There is no standard multiplayer here which is a missed opportunity to my mind. I enjoyed playing this with my 4-year old (it’s so simple to play!) with us taking it in turns to play a level, but I would have loved to have a competitive mode to play online or off. Instead, there is Twitch integration that allows you to play with others online through streaming. Viewers can vote for where the streamer has to place their colour, which locks them into a certain region. This is a nice feature, but I still feel a proper multiplayer mode would have been a nice addition. This is the sort of thing that would lend itself rather nicely to asynchronous multiplayer as well.
There is a level editor included which is a nice addition, and there a good few levels on the Steam Workshop to choose from as well. Seeing as the levels are often randomised, making your own levels is a viable way to extend the (already considerable) content of the game as the layout of the level may be the same, but the starting points for the different colours changes.
The game is a really rather pleasant experience for the most part. It’s very relaxing (unless you’re trying to get repeated wins in a row!) and has graphics and sound that support that. The simplistic art style looks great with the bright colours standing out well as they fill in the grey lines. It reminds me of the style used in Mini Metro. In fact I did wonder if it was the same developer based on the art style. The sound is very minimal, with gentle piano sounds when colours meet with each other. Very soothing for the most part.
This is a well polished package that very much justifies its cost of entry thanks to all the content. Whilst it may not be the new Tetris, its short level times set off that “one more turn” feeling in me that great puzzle games have. These lines certainly are addictive!