THE ULTIMATE ACTION PUZZLE GAME
Tetris is the greatest action puzzle game and perhaps one of the greatest games of all time. Although it came out around thirty years ago, I never had a chance to review it as stores never sold it indivisually. I never reviewed Tetris on the Game Boy, because it wasn’t sold on its own. It was the original pack in game that came with the portable system and dare I say the ultimate quick fix of gaming excellence.
It’s a simple game, but can involve some complex strategy and thought. For a game that starts slow, the intensity will ramp up as blocks drop faster and your screen fills up with Tetronimos. It’s that simplicity and intensity that makes Tetris such an addictive game.
In Tetris you play on a board that has Tetronimos falling one at a time. Tetronimos are blocks consisting of four cells that are different shapes. Squares of two and two, zigs of two on two off kilter, zags of two on two in the other direction, L shapes that have three and one. Last is perhaps the most important piece, the straight line. On the way down you can spin the blocks and move them left and right into place. Once they hit the ground a new block begins its descent. You can increase the speed by holding down on the directional pad.
To both score and survive, you’ll want to make rows that the game calls lines. When a row is completely full, it disappears with a sound and you’ll earn points. Completing more than one row at a time will give you bigger points. Scoring rows will gain you levels. These levels will make the blocks fall faster. If you complete four rows at once that scores you a Tetris. If your mess of blocks stacks over the top, you’ve lost.
With this being the first mainstream console release for Tetris it lacks the frills of more modern versions such as quick drop and seeing where the piece will land. To add a bit of strategy to the game, you’ll see the next block that will drop. Later versions of the game will show the next several blocks. As much as it is obsolete in every way such as lack of modes and lack of colors, it’s still enjoyable.
After selecting one or two players, you’re sent to a setup screen that lets you select between mode A and B. Then you pick between three musics or turning it off. Afterward, you pick a level as some sort of pseudo difficulty. The higher the level, the faster the blocks fall. At the bottom of the level selection you’ll see the top three scores. Saving the scores is great, but it’s a shame they’re all lost when you power down the portable console.
MODE A vs MODE B
Mode A is the traditional near endless game. I say endless because those skilled enough to reach 500 lines the game does have an ending complete with a cut scene of a rocket launch. I hate to spoil a thirty year old game, but consider that enticement. The awkward thing about completing 500 lines is that you’ll max out the score long before you beat the game.
Mode B starts with you having twenty-five lines that you whittle away by scoring rows. Once you hit zero lines, you’ve completed the stage. It offers some much needed diversity to a simple game. At the end of each stage you’ll see how you scored your rows.
The second mode also includes a stage select labeled as high. The higher you go, the more blocks you’ll have cluttering your board. Most stages will reward you with a musical cut scene of a band playing a tune. Each one of these stages has its own top three scores.
For anyone that has a friend with a Game Boy and an link cable, you can play head-to-head. One player is Mario and the other Luigi. These characters are seen in the interface above the stage. Scoring a row will add a row to your opponent. These additional rows have a single gap in them to still let the other player have a chance to clean up your garbage. Mode B offers a nice handicap system since both players can set their own stage.
For anyone looking for an even greater challenge, Tetris includes a hard mode that’s indicated by a heart. To reach this mode, hold down and press start on the title screen. This takes every level you can select and adds ten. So selecting level 5 is really level 15.
Tetris continues to be a classic game across most platforms and still endures the test of time to be a fun and addictive time waster. While it continues to add to the formula with various iterations throughout the decades, it will always be fondly remembered as the first game most people played on the Game Boy. If having a portable Nintendo system in your pocket wasn’t enough to sell the system, having Tetris to play certainly made it a great purchase.