Inch by inch, row by row.
Tetris is life. Think about it. As time passes, life’s little problems
incessantly pour down in chunks. Somehow, someway, you must conquer these hurdles,
fitting them together so you can move on
As you grow older, these challenges come at you faster and faster, until the problems become so difficult, they overwhelm you, destroying your immune system, rendering you a lifeless husk of a man wrapped up in a tight white jacket in the back of a van.
I’m taking the metaphor too far.
In any case, Tetris has proved itself to be one of the longest lasting,
most capable game concepts out there. And because it is all these things, Tetris
is nigh immortal. I bet 20 years from now, game systems will still feature some
sort of Tetris game.
Today is no different, with Tetris Worlds for the Xbox. So, what separates
this Tetris from the many other Tetris‘ already out there? Besides
some alternate modes that can’t compete with the original, Tetris Worlds
features online gameplay that brings Tetris to the console masses.
Tetris Worlds includes six different game styles, starting with the
classic Tetris, which I really shouldn’t have to explain. There are seven
kinds of pieces, each made up of different configurations of four blocks. These
“tetrads” must be fit into complete lines in order to clear a horizontal line
of blocks. More points are awarded for larger number of lines cleared at once,
leading up to the elusive “Tetris” when four rows of blocks are simultaneously
The other five modes slightly change the rules and goals to wring out some more play. For example, Fusion mode includes single block pieces that can’t be destroyed. These pieces keep falling down towards the bottom, and in order to complete a challenge, the single block pieces must make their way down to the single red block on the bottom of the playing field.
Fusion’s chain concept doesn’t work very well; Tetris just hasn’t proven
itself to be as chain-wieldy as Puyo Puyo, Tetris Attacks, or
Square Tetris offers points for certain four by four blocks made in the same
color – this one doesn’t works at all for me. Cascade mode allows blocks to
fall through holes. Sticky Tetris involves connecting like-colored blocks to
fulfill a critical mass quota. Hotline mode simply requires you to complete
certain lines within the playing field. Tetris Worlds‘ modes are not
broken, but they cannot compete with the original.
Tetris Worlds offers a display of the next six pieces. What Einstein
out there can play six moves in advance? I’d really like to meet him, because
at extreme high speeds, one move in advance is about all I can take in. In order
to speed up and add nuances to the gameplay, there’s a quick drop with outline,
block hold, and an easy rotate option. These features can all be switched off
to keep the challenge pure.
Tetris first came out on the NES, there was a legal battle between Tengen,
a subsidiary of Atari, and Nintendo to secure the American distribution rights.
Tengen’s Tetris was already released before they were forced to recall
the product. It had a cooperative play mode that has yet to be duplicated in
any other Tetris game. While it’s mostly just a quirky 2-player game that usually
ends up with one player bitterly screwing the other one over, it would have
been worthwhile to revive that concept.
But if multiplayer is your thing, this edition of Tetris Worlds includes
an Xbox Live component with up to four players. Most of these challenges have
you competing against a time limit to accomplish a goal. There is a lounge mode
where player rankings are kept, so you can enjoy a breezier atmosphere without
some kid screaming about how you “sux0rs.”
The visuals are nice and sharp, with pleasant, evolving environmental landscapes
for backgrounds. The cinematic videos portray a hokey story of alien Tetris
blocks, which is just silly, and on top of that just screams amateur production.
I’m sure a deeper story could have been written, but for heaven’s sake, this
is Tetris, not Metal Gear.
The music is a mostly electronic, trance beats. It isn’t horrible, but I find
myself missing the Russian roots of the game. It’s just not quite the same without
that familiar tune. And where is the freedom to choose my own music? There’s
also an incessant voiceover that sounds like that creepy kid from those Mazda
“Zoom Zoom” commercials.
Tetris Worlds presents a grading dilemma. Tetris as a concept
and as a game is still great fun. Tetris Worlds may not be revolutionary,
but it’s an affordable take on a classic and offers fun online play. Yet even
more affordable are the many free online PC takes of Tetris, such as
Tetrinet. And you can get just as much fun digging out the old NES or
Game Boy for some good times.