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.
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.
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
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.