The Zen of Tetris
If you play Tetris long enough, you get in the zone -- and things suddenly start to make sense. For example, have you ever thought how Tetris, in a way, is a metaphor for life? Things starts out slow, but as you go on, life starts to come at you faster, and it all becomes more difficult. Trouble comes your way in different shapes and sizes, and you have to find a way to make it all fit together, and then go on to the next task. And all this, my friend, boils down to one thing: figuring out the best way to score.
A brand new Tetris has been released, hoping to succeed the former as the almighty king of puzzle games. The Next Tetris retains the overall look and feel of the classic, and tries to mix it up with new play elements, like colored blocks and combos. Unfortunately, what you end up with is less strategy, less fun, and quickly tiring.
Looking at almost every object-based puzzle game of the past, there have always been two major constructs: differences in shape and differences in color. A shape puzzle game would be original Tetris. A color puzzle game would be Columns, Puyo Puyo, or Puzzle Fighter.
Now let's look at classic Tetris. The key to the game was clearing away the lines to allow your openings and mistakes to be filled. If you made a mistake, and left an opening somewhere, you had to find the quickest way fill it or leave yourself vulnerable to making more mistakes. The cleaner you played, the easier it was to create 'tetrises', clear lines, and score.
The Next Tetris retains the familiar tetrad shaped pieces, but the difference is that sometimes the individual blocks are made up of different colors. When two blocks of the same color touch one another, they bind together, becoming a larger block. The different colored blocks will also fall sometimes when you clear lines -- if there is an opening and nothing else is holding the block back, the different color block will keep falling until it lands. You still rotate the blocks, and clear the board by completing lines. The central goal isn't to score points and clear lines, but to clear away enough junk pieces in order to reach and clear the bottom line.
The different colors and separation of the blocks are supposed to encourage combos. The problem is that you can't plan very far ahead. With Puzzle Fighter or Puyo Puyo, you developed a sense of how to set up your blocks for combinations. In those games, you didn't have to worry so much about fitting the pieces in, because all pieces were uniform. In this game, because you still have to worry about making complete lines, in addition to fitting pieces together, and making sure certain same-color pieces don't connect, what you end up with is too much.
The combos that you do pull off are most often accidental. There are times when letting one block drop into a hole helps, but overall, it takes away from the original simple, but solid strategy.
Remember how cool it was to work up your pieces, getting that straight block, and pulling off a tetris? The game would then make a loud noise, and there'd be abundant joy. Well, there aren't any points to be scored in the main version of this game -- its been replaced by a ranking system. It takes away from the importance of completing tetrises; by trying to emphasize the clearing of the bottom line and combinations, the game play now feels more like a cleaning chore.
The original game has been included, but it's just bare bones Tetris. No options or different modes of play can be changed within it. That just shows a real lack of effort. The original should've been treated better.
Aesthetically... its Tetris -- How much can you really do? The choices of colors are a bit drab. The blocks themselves are bright, contrasting heavily with the dull surroundings. The backgrounds are supposed to be psychedelic, but are really just a dark blur of colors. The music ranges from low grade re-mixes of the classic Russian tunes, to bad techno. The game does allow you to play your own CDs, which you'll want to do.
Even the two player mode soesn't have the strength to make it a really competitive skills game. I really wanted to like this game, having loved the original so much. But playing it on marathon mode for hours was just tedious. Even when the speeds were high, I was still able to control the board easily. And then when things got out of hand, there'd be all these accidental combos to clear things up. It shouldn't work that way.
I think there was a lot that could have been tweaked to make this game more fun. They should've left the scoring element in. They should have added point bonuses for clearing large areas of the same color. They could have even added some elements of the rare Tengen Tetris for 8 bit Nintendo, like cooperative play.
Truthfully, The Next Tetris isn't really the "next" tetris. It's just a twist on the familiar game making it less fun to play. Clearing the bottom line has been done before, but adding the accidental combos and removing a big chunk of the strategy has hurt the game. If you want multi-player Tetris, the network based Tetrinet is much more fun, and truer to its Tetris roots. Then there's Gameboy Tetris, Window's Tetris, Tetris Jr, Acid Tetris... Life is good and doesn't always need change.