Consider your life and all of its numerous pieces, shapes, colors, and various items or iconography. We have so many representations for things that there’s also the possibility we need to get rid of it all more quickly than we thought. What if you discovered that all of the chairs or all of the plates or even all of the shirts in your possession could be traded for other things in the real world?
That’s actually the case in some places, but more and more people need help they don’t get and that’s also the case in Tetris. For a video game as old as block-stacking and hopelessly addicting in lock step with its counterparts depending on the platform you choose, Tetris still feels dumbly sweet. While the license has changed hands quite frequently, I love to go back and see how a new version stacks up. Just don’t think of it as a total evolution in Tetris Ultimate.
I point to Tetris DS as the pinnacle of twisting and playing with the franchise’s design because it added a lovable Nintendo overlay on routines. You usually expect what to do in a Tetris game because you remember the shapes, but the colors always change. What does a long piece look like in each of the 8, 16, or even 64-bit game cartridges? If you’re carrying a Tetris game around, exactly what features do you want to have for long or short play?
Now that I’ve dumped rhetorical questions on the opponents in this showdown, I’ll say that I’d rather continue with Tetris DS than download a mobile version of Tetris Ultimate. Xbox One gamers can download the game for $40 or find it at retail, but it doesn’t really bring any new personality or variety to the Tetris brand. Endless, Marathon, Battle, and challenge modes join online competitors in totally expected gameplay, though I’d still like to see a few updates to basic modes.
I think one reason I loved Tetris DS had to do with the ability to effectively pause gameplay while spinning tetronimoes. The developers give you options for this in Tetris Ultimate, but you can't rely on them. They can break the game if you do it with style, but it won’t allow you to wrack up billions of points. I tried to flip a left oriented piece over an even four-square block and failed, resulting in a pocket I didn’t recover from. The CPU players had already failed, but it’s disappointing when a good run falls victim to indecision.
I’d like to find a lot of opposing players online, but Tetris Ultimate doesn’t seem like it’s going to set a four-line Tetris off under anyone’s toes. The music itself remains dull, but not without brief signs of life towards the end of games. The overall design’s blue look gets reflected in backing tracks and most of the menu’s navigation noises. It’s not as lively as the original Tetris Game Boy cartridge’s beeps and boops, though it’ll do if you like to try for a high score in-between other games.
For a downloaded game of garbage-stacking, sending, and essentially systematically deleting, Tetris Ultimate worked wonders. For the asking price and in the lineup of current and retro Tetris versions, this falls somewhere in the middle given its reliably well-tread handling. You could ask for a version more to your liking, but Ultimate seems mostly focused on getting to these new consoles before any other subtitle.
Copy purchased by reviewer. Reviewed on Xbox One. Also available for PlayStation 4, PC, and 3DS.