The Bottom Line: Another Tetris addict... (sigh) Tragic.
When I wrote my article Why Action Games are Going Downhill almost two years ago, the first thing I mentioned was Space Invaders I-know-I-can-do-better addiction. This kind of addiction is the kind that is motivated by the absolute NEED to top your own best record for a game, and hopefully everyone elses. This kind of game has been sorely lacking ever since the introduction of the NES and scrolling games. But there were quite a few games during the 16-bit Golden Era that motivated you to top your personal best. In the 32-bit Dark Ages, this breed became few and far between, but it still existed. Even in the 128-bit Resurrection, they continued to exist and outlast every trend ever created.
Im sure most hardcore gamers have experienced this addiction at one time or another. Space Invaders grandfathered it. Bubble Bobble had it. Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Mario Bros. all had it, too. So did Contra, and even Mars Matrix and Crazy Taxi for the Dreamcast. But all these games bow to a puzzle game that was intended by its creator to be nothing but an IQ test for top scientists.
Tetris is this game. In fact, using the word game in reference to Tetris would be a gross understatement. Tetris is an addiction all in itself. I believe its even considered clincally addictive. After you played Tetris for awhile, the world around you became nothing more than a giant Tetris playing field. You could look and see an endless stream of blocks raining down in windows, refridgerators, television screens and tree trunks. And as time goes on, a cure for this addiction is seeming less and less likely because no one owns the rights to it. So if theres one universal truth about video game consoles, its that Tetris will be available on every last one of them from now until Kingdom Come.
Tetris even rises above the ranks of the elite Space Invaders I-know-I-can-do-better breed by being a rare game that is truly unbeatable. This is not to say Tetris is tough; in fact, its so ridiculously simple a two-year old could master it (more on that later...). No, the fact is that Tetris is quite literally unbeatable. It never ends. As you remove more and more blocks, the game just gets faster and faster until it gets to a speed thats almost more than your eyes and thumbs can take. Once it gets up to that speed, its just a race against time to see if youre able to outlast your batteries. If you can take the falling blocks until the light on your Game Boy shuts down and the screen fades out, only then have you officially beat the game.
Theres no story or objective in Tetris. Theres not even a point, really. You dont take control of a main character, you just be you. Your job in Tetris was to arrange sets of falling blocks so that there were no gaps between the ends of the playing field. Once you did it right, the blocks disappeared to make room for more blocks. Thats it, nothing more. As you made the rows disappear, the blocks started to fall faster and faster until they overwhelmed you. If you were unable to arrange rows fast enough, the blocks would pile up. If the pile reached the top of the screen, game over.
The blocks rained down in groups of four. Some were straight lines, some were square shaped, some were shaped like the capital letter L and some were shaped like square lightning bolts. Aside from simply moving the blocks to arrange them, you rotated them using the a and b buttons. If you played it right, you could sometimes make two, three or even up to four rows of blocks disappear at once. To assist you in planning, the computer generously displays whatever is coming next on the right side of the screen, which held your statistic display.
The stats are exactly where the addiction in Tetris lay. Aside from the block display and the usual score counter, theres a counter there that keeps track of the number of rows youve cleared. People get fiercely competetive trying to top each others line totals.
When Tetris first appeared on the scene, it fit the game-as-you-go mentality that Nintendo was trying to convey in its Game Boy advertisements. But they must have thought someone would get bored with the original version, so they added a second mode, simple titled mode b. In this mode, you tried to reduce a line total of 25 to zero. It certainly sounds easy enough, but if you so desired, the game would put a handfull of rows in place when you started. You had the option of none to five, with five reaching to about the halfway point up the screen. Trying to clear 25 lines with all those blocks in the way makes a decent challenge-there are times when I cant pull it off. In both modes, you had the option of choosing your starting speed, which ranged from zero to nine. Zero was sluggish, and nine was of course blindingly fast.
The graphics in Tetris are really nothing. Theyre simple, but you cant complain because theyre supposed to be. You dont even need backgrounds. You cant even complain about the sickly spinach-green tint of the screen because all Game Boy games are like that.
Same with audio. You get sounds of falling blocks and a nifty sound for disappearing blocks. The game gives you the choice of three music tracks, two of which are worth listening to, the last of which causes painfull repitition headaches, the likes of which cause people to pray for death. Or you can turn the music off and just keep the sounds.
And the control. You can move blocks left and right without hinderance, and pressing down makes blocks fall faster. A and b cause rotation in differant directions.
I suppose the latest console generation of gamers would probably pass up Tetris for a more graphically pleasing game. But when the going gets tough, Tetris makes the going a lot more pleasant. If you travel a lot, Tetris is an absolute must.
Beams boxes zig-zags and L-shaped block drop down a narrow passage. Feel your pulse quicken as you spin shift and align the shapes for a perfect fit. It's challenging and demands a split second decision!