These born-from-the-soil creatures are far from the whole story. Under certain conditions, usually the manner in which their fellows die, creatures mutate into new breeds, specialising or becoming more powerful. Forcing them to do so means paying close attention to their behaviour and surroundings or encouraging their environment in particular directions. Once you've mutated a new strain, all creatures of that type will take that form from thereon in.
It's a nice system, pleasantly in-depth and sufficiently complex to keep you guessing and interested. Sadly though, like the rest of the mechanics, it suffers from the lack of direct control you have over anything other than the digging, especially when it's compounded by the almost total lack of feedback when you fail.
For a start, persuading slimemosses to deposit nutrients in a concentrated fashion is a tricky task. Not impossible, but it takes a fair bit of micro-management, something for which the game's fast pace leaves you very little time.
Things do get a little easier once you've established a basic ecosystem, providing you can keep the food chain balanced, but this means culling over-zealous breeds by hand. Evolving things on purpose is almost impossible, requiring big risks in the management of monster numbers and environments along with almost all of your attention.
Happily, mutations happen quite a lot by accident, with a handy ticker at the bottom of the screen warning you when it's happening and giving you a chance to cancel it. There's also a gauge showing the relative numbers of each monster type, helping you to maintain balance. New to the sequel is a practice chamber where you can perfect your tunnelling and mutation skills, although planning is often a moot point in the chaotic tumult of actual gameplay.
This is more of a polish than a true sequel, in fact. There are more monsters, heroes and areas, and important improvements have been made to usability and ease of access, but this is the same game with some nice new bells and whistles.
This also seems to undermine Nippon Ichi's decision to include the first game as an unlockable on the UMD to differentiate it from the cheaper PSN version, but that's certainly nothing to complain about. However, if you enjoyed the first game, you probably won't need many of the new tutorials or hand-holding which are on offer here anyway, making it a much less tempting prospect.
As we said of the first Lord, there's a good game hiding in here somewhere, and a breezily satirical script and quick restarts after failure give it a 'one more go' quality. Useful, because even the rare victories feel more like luck than judgement.
If you liked the look of the first game but never got around to it, and fancy a challenging, unique and often quite entertaining game where you get to plot against smug goody two-shoes, then you may find this clicks with you. Like most games from the Nippon Ichi stable, though, it's not one for the majority - obscured as it is by obtuse mechanics and a sometimes-vicious difficulty level. Hurrah for them all the same.
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