Fans will be pleased to hear that they can visit Shangri La for a second time in this sequel to the popular word game. With a greater number of levels and some notable new gameplay twists, Shangri La 2 – Deluxe is an all-around better game than the first title, even though its idiosyncratic dictionary takes some getting used to.
To advance down the road to Shangri La, players must create words by clicking on letter tiles on the board in order to reveal special star tiles. Collect all the star tiles (by clearing space around them to free them up) to move on to the next level. Any tile can be used to make a word as long as there’s space to slide it out on at least on side – the game is similar to mah jong in this respect.
Unlike the original Shangri La, these levels are not timed. Instead, you’re free to think about your next move for as long as you like, and can use the time to dream up long words that score the most points. You’ll also score extra points for creating a word using letter tiles that are all the same color, and can rack up even more points if you manage to spell the level’s special bonus word.
A handful of levels on the road are timed, however. Here, if you can find all the stars before the time ticks down, you’ll earn a Seal of Shangri La which takes you one step closer to your destination. You can create the bonus words to roll back the timer and give yourself a bit of breathing room.
You can still “lose” a level in Shangri La 2 if you run out of possible words, but thankfully there are several power-ups at your disposal to help get you out of sticky situations. These power-ups appear as special tiles on the board can be acquired by clearing all of the tiles around them and used later at any time.
The power-up I found especially handy was one that added a few extra vowels to the board. There’s also a dictionary power-up that suggests a long word to spell using available tiles, a shuffle power-up that re-arranges tiles into more favorable patterns, and a joker tile that can substitute for any letter of the alphabet.
The luck tile, which fittingly sports a picture of a wheel of fortune, can make either good or bad things happen depending on what random event the cursor lands on when you give the wheel a spin. If you’re unlucky, your letterboard could temporarily decrease in size so you can only create small words that aren’t worth many points, or the luck stone might turn into a word that’s tricky to use, like a “J.” There are also bothersome stone tiles that can only be cleared by clearing all the tiles around them.
The main benefits of Shangri La 2 – Deluxe are that it’s a longer, more relaxed game than the original, and the introduction of colored tiles is a nice new twist. Stat hounds (like me) will also enjoy perusing records of their longest word, the words they’ve used the most, and the total number of unique words and overall words used.
On the downside, the dictionary is a bit bonkers. While the original Shangri La was noted for having one of the more liberal dictionaries in terms of recognizing various naughty words, in Shangri La 2 the pendulum seems to have swung – rather ridiculously – in the other direction with an overly prudish and at times haphazard language filter.
“Fool,” “rim” and “prick” were among the words that the dictionary didn’t acknowledge. It also, strangely enough, recognized “gayer” but not “gay,” and also allowed certain proper names like Martha and Benny.
My strangest experience with the game’s word recognition was when the Dictionary power-up suggested that I could make the word “ssidata” – whatever that is.
If you can put up with an occasionally unpredictable dictionary, however, you’ll find Shangri La 2 – Deluxe to be a rewarding experience. It’s not the most difficult or polished word game out there, but it’s definitely a positive step forward from its predecessor.