Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Multi-Player: Yes (only using the GameBoy Game Link/Video Link Cable connected to another GameBoy that has Tetris in it)
Password Feature: No
Battery Back-up for Game Saves: No
ESRB Rating: None given to this game at the time of release
Instruction Manual: 18 Pages in Black and White, with some limited Color
Ports: Several across Arcade, Home Console, PC, Mac and Handheld/Portable Devices
Compatibility: This version of Tetris can be play on GameBoy Color, Super GameBoy, GameBoy Advance and other various Nintendo GameBoy Consoles.
Series Legacy: Tetris 2, Tetris Plus, Tetris Plus 2, Tetris-sphere, Tetris DX, Tetris 64, Tetris Worlds, Tetris DS, Tetris Splash, Tetris Battle, Tetris Axis, Tetris Evolution, Tetris Mania, Tetris 4D, Tetris: The Grandmaster, The Next Tetris, and a lot more other titles!
CONCEPT & THEME
Suddenly, you look upwards and what do you see?
BLOCKS FALLING DOWN!
So, what do you do next? Dodge and get out of the way?
No: you guide the falling blocks into their correct spaces and positions, so that they flush together and magically disappear from sight!
LOL: no seriously! That’s what you should do when playing this version of Tetris for the original GameBoy!
Okay, to be fair, there is no real story line in Tetris and for obvious reasons: it’s a puzzle game, and what a fun experience you will have playing this classic.
Falling Blocks of various sizes have to be guided by you the player, towards the bottom of the playing field. Slide, move and click the pieces into their correct spaces and positions and you form 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 lines, causing the stacks of blocks you just erected to “poof”- disappear!
And that’s it! Sounds simple, right? Well, don’t leave just yet! There is more to read about this positively addictive puzzler!
ANIMATIONS & GRAPHICS
You have a playing field that is like a wide, vertical stack, which has what looks like brick walls on either side. In the middle of the play field, there is nothing; it’s empty, but not for long. Once you start playing Tetris, the blocks start falling into the open area of the playing field.
And speaking of falling blocks, they all have very different, very distinct shapes. Even on the small retro GameBoy Screen, you will be able to make out the Long Blocks, the T-Blocks, the Square Blocks, and so on. And, you will need to recognize each type of shape almost instantly, because you will have to very quickly decide where you are going to place which block.
Find open gaps in the Block Stacks; successfully fitting blocks together horizontally & vertically, will cause a set number of lines to flash repeatedly before they disappear from the game field. These visual cues are very clear when you see them; they are easy to recognize; they let you know you are scoring points, lowering the stack of lines and that you are winning.
The old Game Boy lacked on-screen color for its graphics, which is about the main strike against the visuals of this version of Tetris. The game has shades of Black & White, and also has some hues of Green, but that’s about it. Now, this isn’t a deal-breaker at all, since the visuals are meant to show you all you need to play and win at Tetris. Nothing unnecessary has been added to the visuals.
Animation comes in the form of your Victory Screens. If you win certain Game Modes at Higher Difficulty Levels, you are rewarded with Characters Dancing & an actual Space Shuttle Launch! This is when & where you get to see some cool & unique animations in Tetris.
When you have 2-Player Versus Action, you get Player-1 represented by a Super Mario Avatar, and Player-2 is represented by a Luigi Avatar. As you play, as you win and as you lose in 2-Player Versus Mode, your character avatars will perform a variety of different animations on-screen, which all welcome additions to the GameBoy Version of Tetris.
AUDIO & SOUND
The original GameBoy was released back in the late 1980s and it was limited in its audio technology when compared to portable consoles released today in the 21st century.
Now, despite this fact, the audio effects in Tetris are not bad; actually they are very adequate for the type of game it is.
Rotating a block gets you a distinct sound effect; dropping a block down to the bottom of the play field or onto of other stacks also makes a distinct sound; clearing 1, 2, or 3 lines will all make the same sound effect.
However, if you manage to clear 4 Lines all at once, you get to hear a very unique sound effect that only occurs with the formation of a perfect TETRIS.
Lose a game when the Play Filed is filled up with recklessly stacked up blocks and you are treated to what sounds like a deflating balloon. The audio effect tells you that it’s game over and you just lost a game of Tetris!
Aside from the memorable Title Screen Music (which you can’t select to listen to during active gameplay), you can pick from 3 other different soundtracks; each one has a different pace, mood or theme to them. Again, despite how old the GameBoy Technology is and despite how old this version of Tetris is, the music is still very memorable and will bring a nostalgic smile to your face when you hear it once again.
Even if you are new to playing any version of Tetris, chances are that you will find these simple tunes oddly attractive and catchy; you may end up even humming them back to yourself when you aren’t even playing the game.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t like any of the music, you have the option of turning off the music, before you start playing any of the game modes in Tetris.
Winning any of the Game Modes in Tetris also plays back different types of music for you listening pleasure; you can’t hear these particular soundtracks any other way.
Simple as Tetris’ GamePlay sounds like on paper, this title makes use of both the A & B Buttons as well as the Directional Pad on the original GameBoy Console. You will need to use them all effectively to win.
LEFT/RIGHT on the DIRECTIONAL PAD: Move the TETRIMINOS (Falling Blocks) Left or Right
Press DOWN on the DIRECTIONAL PAD: Increase the SPEED of the Falling Tetrimino
Press the A-BUTTON: Rotate the Falling Tetrimino 90 Degrees Clockwise
Press the B-BUTTON: Rotate the Falling Tetrimino 90 Degrees Counter-Clockwise
START Button: Begin your game
NOTE 1: Press the A-Button to Advance Forward to the Next Menu Screens
NOTE 2: Press the B-Button to Go Back & Return to the Last/Previous Menu Screens
Next, we will examine the TETRIMINOS: these are the Falling Blocks in Tetris. There are 7 different types of Tetris Blocks in this game. Each Block is made up of 4 Small Squares that are stuck together to form Blocks of different shapes and lengths.
I-Block: 4 Small Squares stuck one on top of the other to form one Long & Straight Block
Square-Block: 2 Small Squares stuck onto 2 other Small Squares to form one Square Block
L-Block: 3 Vertical Small Squares with another Small Square attached to the Bottom-Right side
J-Block: 3 Vertical Small Squares with another Small Square attached to the Bottom-Left side
T-Block: 3 Horizontal Small Squares, with another Small Square attached underneath the Middle Square
S-Block: 2 Small Squares stuck on top of 2 other Small Squares so that they resemble the Shape of the Letter “S”
Z-Block: 2 Small Squares stuck on top of 2 other Small Squares so that they resemble the Shape of the Letter “Z”
Your goal in Tetris is to fit together all of these Falling Blocks (Tetriminos), so that they form a perfect line or perfect lines.
The Tetriminos can be lined horizontally (across) or vertically (straight up). You can only score and form lines HORIZONTALLY to make them vanish from the game area.
Now, you job is to move the falling pieces into any available open spaces on the GamePlay Field. If the falling pieces fit into the open spots, they will stick down in place. Repeat this procedure until the Tetriminos you are moving left or right and rotating 90 degrees all fit together to form a perfect line across the entire game field. This Line will first flash for a bit, before it disappears.
Once the Line disappears, the stack of blocks you have been building up will drop down by one line. If you stack the Tetriminos together to form 2 or 3 or 4 lines, you will cause the stacks in your Game Field to decrease by the number of lines you have successfully formed. You also get scored a certain number of points whenever you clear out 1, 2 or 3 lines from the game field.
Clearing out 4 Lines that are stacked one on top of the other, all at once, forms a TETRIS, which will then disappear subtracting 4 Lines from your built up stack. You score much more points when you form a perfect 4-Line Tetris.
Every 10 Lines you form and clear out from your Stack of Blocks will advance you to the next Level of Difficulty. So, if you are on Level 1, forming & clearing 10 lines automatically advances you onto Level 2 and so on. At Higher Numerical Levels, the difficulty increases; the Tetris Pieces descend into the play area a bit faster with each new Level. Just how high can you go? How much of the rapidly dropping Tetriminos can you handle? If you play long enough, you’re definitely gonna find out!
If you place a Tetrimino in the wrong space or you miss placing it into the right spot, you run the risk of stacking up a number of blocks, one on top of the other, without making any lines form and disappear from the field.
When your stack keeps getting higher and higher without you forming and clearing out any lines, the stack will reach the top of the GamePlay Field. Once your stack reaches the very zenith of the play area, you hear an annoying sound effect, and the whole gameplay space gets suddenly “bricked” over. Basically, that means you lost and its game over for you!
Keep the Block Stacks as low as possible by successfully forming lines and clearing them out of the gameplay space. Score points as you play until you reach the end of the game Mode you are playing and basically win the game. It is, of course, not nearly as easy to do as it sounds here.
During Active Gameplay, pay attention to the bottom Right-hand Side of the GameBoy Screen; on there, you will see a Preview Window which will show you the next Tetris Piece that the game randomly generates and sends to you. Quickly glance at this space as you play so that you can prepare a strategy in your mind ahead of time, as to exactly where you want to place that next Tetris Piece.
Responsive as the control in this title are, there are some response issues, especially when it comes to the B-TYPE Game. At Higher Stacks & at Faster Dropping Speeds, it becomes very tricky and difficult to control the falling Blocks effectively.
For example, if you score a line near the top of you stack and clear out that line from your stack, the next falling piece becomes so difficult to accurately control. This Tetrimino seems to become too “heavy” and it just drops for a bit, before you are finally able to regain full control of it (by then its too late). This means that no matter how hard to struggle to control the Next Falling Block, you will end up placing it in the wrong space. When that happens, watch out because the next falling pieces will drop down very fast and stack up all the way to the top; you will lose.
Control issues, which are usually very good in Tetris, seems to suffer when you are trying to control the falling pieces near to the top of the game field, which typically occurs after you have successfully formed any number of lines and cleared them. The next dropping blocks just unfairly seem to be too difficult for you to control correctly. This is true in both A-Type & B-Type Game Modes.
Despite all this, Tetris is still fun to play: it generally has responsive gameplay, which is very simple to get into, but you will need good judgment, accuracy and speed to aid you in playing and winning at this title. Some of the control problems don’t seem to break or ruin the overall gameplay experience, which is a good thing.
Fire-up your GameBoy with Tetris to get past the Title Screen; after all that, you will get the following Game Modes & Options:
GAME TYPE: Pick either Type-A or Type-B and proceed to play!
TYPE-A: Select the Level of Difficulty from Level 0 to Level 9. The Lower the Level Number, the Slower the Tetriminos will drop down from the top of the screen. The Higher the Level Number, the Faster the Tetriminos will fall from the top of the playing field. Level 0 is the Slowest Speed, while Level 9 is the fastest Speed.
TYPE-A GAME SCREEN INFO: On the Right-Hand Side of the Screen you have the Score Display at the very top; below that you have the Difficulty Level Display (0 to 9); next, you have the Number of Lines you have successfully formed & cleared; right at the bottom is the Preview Window, which shows you what the next Block to Fall into the field looks like.
TYPE-B: This is a slightly alternated version of Type-A; in this mode, you are given the freedom to select both the Level of Difficulty (how slow or fast you want the Tetris Shapes to descend) as well as how Low or how High the Stack of Blocks will be when you actually begin to play your game.
TYPE-B GAME SCREEN INFO: This is almost identical to the Type-A Game Screen Info, except instead of having a SCORE Display, you now have a HEIGHT Display, which indicates how High you initially set your stack to be, right before you begin playing your current game (the Height Levels range from 0 to 5, with 0 begin no stacks & 5 begin a very High Stack)
TOP SCORE: Input your name into one of 3 slots. This Top Score Feature is available in both TYPE-A & TYPE-B Game Modes.
MUSIC TYPE: Pick from 3 different tunes (A-Type, B-Type, or C-Type); you can also choose to turn off the music if you want.
2-PLAYER GAME: You need to have 2 GameBoy Systems, each with its own copy of Tetris. In addition to that, you need to have a GameBoy Video Link Cable that can connect two GameBoy Consoles together before you can play. In 2-Player Mode, Player-1 gets a Mario character avatar to represent them, while Player-2 gets a Luigi character avatar to represent them.
SUMMARY & CONCLUSION
Believe it or not, Tetris on GameBoy is not the very first version of Tetris. Tetris actually dates all the way back to 1984 in the then Soviet Russia. The GameBoy version of Tetris was released internationally in 1989 & 1990.
And, the point of all this info is that Tetris stands the test of time very well, over the many years. The game concept is so simple, yet it is also so challenging to completely defeat.
Granted, some slight control issues hold the GameBoy version back from being truly perfect; for some odd reason, on higher levels of gameplay and with the stacks closer to the top of the gameplay field, it becomes pointlessly difficult to regain control of the falling blocks, causing you to make unfair mistakes which you normally should be able to avoid. You cannot properly rotate or move the dropping pieces to the area of the gameplay screen that you want.
Also, a couple more Innovative or Inventive Game Modes put into the GameBoy Version would have been nice to have, seeing that the GB entry was actually released 5 years after the original version of Tetris was made.
Still, as it stands, the GB entry of Tetris does have 2 Game Modes, which you can confidently tackle with gameplay controls that are largely responsive to what you do, most of the time.
Not only that, there have been countless Tetris sequels and spin-offs that are simply too numerous to list in this review; interestingly enough, many of these Tetris follow-ups have added their own unique, inventive or innovative twist to this puzzle game giant, to provide fans with a different experience every time, while still maintaining the core appeal of the original Tetris Masterpiece.
Even other non-Tetris Puzzle Games have all benefited one way or another, from the existence of this ground-breaking title. Notable titles like “Columns,” “Sega Swirl,” “Klax,” “Block Out,” and “Super Puzzle Fighter 2: Turbo” as well as “Bejeweled” & “Puzzle Quest” have all directly or indirectly been influenced by the design and success of the Tetris series, especially when it comes to the hugely popular GameBoy entry! This version did originally come bundled together with the GB console, after all!
Whether you are a Causal Gamer, a Hardcore Gamer or somewhere in between, chances are than you either own a physical copy of Tetris (either on cartridge or disc); or you have downloaded a digital copy of this title onto your more recent console or hand held device. This game is that well known and that popular the world over.
Tetris on the original GameBoy isn’t 100% Perfect, but it is still a Puzzle Game Classic, as well as a Masterpiece, which has been instrumental in shaping the puzzle game genre for decades now!
Tetris is definitely a Must-Have and a Must-Play Video Game Title!