Don’t @ Me | Tetris 99 is the best Battle Royale of them all

Before the February 13 Nintendo Direct, the battle royale genre had a limited scope. Most entries had guns, an island to drop onto, and a large looting phase. However, are those elements necessary? Do they form the core of what makes a battle royale? The release of Tetris 99 proves otherwise. Nintendo only just recently waded into the shooter pool with Splatoon. Their entry in the 100 player phenomenon was always going to be nonviolent. By creating something so simplistic, they capture the essence of why we love battle royales. Their creation now serves as a cornerstone, a harbinger of just how expansive this idea can be. For that reason and others, Tetris 99 is the new kingpin atop Murder Island.

Context is King

As much as I personally enjoy shooters of all varieties, those who haven’t been gaming their whole lives don’t acclimate to the genre well. The first person perspective can be confusing for someone who’s never touched a controller. Even if they get the basics down, that’s a far cry from being able to truly enjoy the competition. Mastering fast movement, weapon choice and staying alive requires skills that take years to sharpen. If this was all battle royale is, then its popularity would have a certain plateau. It’s a high plateau, but there’s a hard limit in place.

At its most basic level, Tetris is a game that anyone can pick up and play. Gameplay is self-explanatory and requires no setup. The block shapes fit together to form lines, and you want to avoid the top. There are skills to master in Tetris to be sure, but the initial gameplay of a novice is inviting rather than harsh. Within a few rounds, you have all the tools you need to succeed, you just have to put them together in the right combination to claim victory.

It’s in its accessibility that Tetris 99 opens the door to so many other weird variants of battle royale. Sure, 1 vs. 100 (may she rest in peace) may have done it first, but the live mob-based trivia experience could work better now than it ever did a decade ago. What about a version of Pac-Man where a single ghost must convert the flock of Namco mascots into fellow spectral beings? Perhaps a Wipeout obstacle course where the bodies of 99 dead competitors act as platforms on your way to a chicken dinner? Sure, not every idea is a winner, but Tetris 99 shifts the thinking about the genre. It’s no longer a set game mode, it’s a descriptor that can be placed into pretty much anything.

T-Spinning Out of Control

Tetris 99

Beyond historical impact, Tetris 99 offers the best playing battle royale so far thanks to its fast pace. Matches last fifteen minutes at most, with regular pacing that encourages repeated attempts to improve. Even though it’s a competition on a mass scale, this battle royale variant retains the original’s pick up and play nature. Like most puzzle games, you can just zone out in round after round. Akira is no strangers to Tetris and they’ve crafted a fine client whether you’re seeking knockouts or just testing your skills against the competition.

While the initial runs are simple, Tetris 99 adds a layer of strategy that more experienced players will appreciate. As in past Tetris multiplayer games, you can send garbage blocks to opponents. Unlike past Tetris games, you have up to 99 opponents. By default, you can have the game randomly distribute the garbage amongst the competitors. However, with a flick of the right stick, you can target exactly where you want to strike. You can also use the touchscreen in portable mode to target specific players, which is vital in the endgame of any round.

These tools are how you go from a casual Tetris 99 player to an expert competitor. Unlike other block-laying experiences, Tetris 99 doesn’t necessarily require racking up lines or fast play. You can stall a bit and still come out on top, especially if you’re smart with who you’re attacking and when. Some players will only attack those who attack them, while others will go after badges by taking out the weakest link. It definitely takes some experimentation, even over the course of a single match.

Pros vs. Joes

Tetris 99

In essence, Tetris 99 boils down a 45-minute standoff in PUBG to a short and sweet burst of competition. Anyone who’s seen AGDQ can tell you that there are some folks out there who are godly at Tetris. Brushing up against them in Tetris 99 offers an unmatched thrill. Hyper skilled players can’t just shoot you in the head and move on, they have to display their skills and outrun you. Better yet, it’s entirely possible for a novice to knock out a master if the blocks fall in a favorable position.

That’s the beauty of Tetris 99. No matter if your favorite game is Call of Duty or Bejeweled Stars, you’ll find the fun in Akira’s Switch exclusive. You can play while you’re loading maps in other bigger games. You can knock out a few rounds while you’re cooking dinner. Or, if you take it seriously, you can find yourself absorbed for hours getting better and better. No other game in the genre offers this many unique experiences. Few other competitive games can spark the imagination of the masses. The truth is, Tetris 99 truly is the battle royale for everyone.