Reviewed: October 1, 2002
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Released: June 25, 2002
Every time a new Tetris games releases I feel a bit of sympathy for Alexey Pajitnov. For those of you who don’t know, Alexey created the original Tetris game back in 1985 as a test for computer equipment at his job. It was programmed as seven different shaped pieces that formed four square blocks. These blocks are called Tetrimonos and they must be rotated as they fall and positioned across the bottom leaving no open spaces. If the rows are not completely filled they will not clear from the screen and the Tetriminos will continue to go higher. The game ends if the rows of Tetriminos reach the top of the playing area.
I can still remember playing the very first CGA version of Tetris for the PC back in the late 80’s and many of the variations since then like Welltris, Facetris, Super Tetris and at least a dozen others. To date, there have been 88 different releases of Tetris on 22 different systems including PDA’s and cell phones.
Tetris Worlds is the latest incarnation of this famous puzzle game. Originally released for the PC and PS2, it now makes its way to the Xbox in what is perhaps the finest version to date. Blue Planet Software has used the power of the Xbox to enhance this simple puzzle game with some new visual effects, enhanced audio, and all-new gameplay modes.
Tetris Worlds features:
Chances are everyone out there has played some version of Tetris at sometime during their life, so the obvious question is “Why should I buy Tetris Worlds?” Admittedly, Tetris is still Tetris no matter how many different ways you spin it, but the six modes in Tetris Worlds are all unique and challenging in their own right.
All of these gameplay modes can be played in both single and multiplayer modes. The single player game can be played in either arcade or story mode where you attempt to successfully terraform the six planets (i.e. six game modes) by completing 15 levels. This gets progressively more difficult as you are required to clear 5x the current level in lines. This means that if you are on level 9 you need to clear 45 lines to advance.
To successfully morph the planet you need to clear these lines in the time limit. In the beginning this not that difficult, but trying to clear more than 30 lines in two minutes is nearly impossible. You can continue to play the level even after the time has expired, but you won’t get to see the planet scenery change unless you beat the timer.
One nice feature is the ability to “hold” a particular piece. If a piece is falling and you want to save it you can press the hold button to store that piece to be played later. This adds a minor strategic element to what is otherwise a game of chance when it comes to the order of the falling pieces.
Multiplayer modes allow you to play any of the six variations of Tetris in either Knockout or Race modes. Race is exactly as you would expect with everyone (up to four players) trying to clear the required number or lines first. Knockout mode allows you to send garbage blocks to your opponent by clearing lines on your board. The garbage appears at the bottom of the opponent’s board forcing their blocks closer to the top. They can then clear lines to clear your sent garbage and deliver some of their own.
I played the PC version of Tetris Worlds only briefly and while it was really nice (actually great for a Tetris game), the Xbox version is totally reworked and looks amazing. The six themed planets are gorgeous with lots of colors and special effects such as wispy clouds or a white mist flying through the scene. One level features an exploding volcano with lava and rocks streaking by with smoke trails that pass through the actual playing grid.
When you manage to “rank-up” within the time limit the screen will explode with electricity and special effects followed by a subtle morphing of the background. Watch as a barren planet will start growing trees and flowers that turn into a thriving forest. Each world comes alive with ambient animations, rich colors, and incredible lighting effects.
The actual Tetris game is pretty simplistic. You have the standard grid and colored blocks. The HUD gives you all the necessary info including number of completed lines, remaining time, current level and rank, and upcoming pieces.
My only minor complaint regarding the visuals is that the actual playing field takes up less than 25% of the screen. Admittedly, this is a vertical game played on a horizontal format, but I would have enjoyed this game more if it had at least used all the vertical space on the screen. Even on my 35” TV the blocks became fuzzy and indistinct at times. The pulsating nature of the colors combined with the fact that they are semi-transparent caused some eyestrain after a few hours of playtime.
The music in Tetris Worlds is simply amazing. It features a good selection of techno tracks that make excellent use of the Dolby Surround capabilities of the Xbox. You can hear excellent separation with unique tracks in each speaker that blend, morph, and fade across channels in an almost hypnotic pattern. My first session with this game lasted just over two hours and I had no sense of any passage of time.
If you ever get tired of the built-in soundtrack Tetris Worlds fully supports custom soundtracks using your own MP3’s stored on the Xbox hard drive. While stacking blocks to the tunes of Metallica might not be appropriate, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, or the atmospheric tunes of Enigma are excellent choices.
The sound effects are simple and adequate for this type of game. The repetitive nature of the gameplay is reflected in the sounds, but the occasional crackle of energy or whooshing explosion of a Tetris breaks the monotony. There is also a female voice that encourages you throughout the game and also counts down the final seconds of the timer.
Priced at $30 I can comfortably recommend this game to anyone who enjoys Tetris. There is more than enough here to give Tetris veterans reason to play, and this is the perfect title to introduce a new generation to the pioneer of all puzzle games. The story mode is an interesting twist but doesn’t really add to the game. This is first and foremost a Tetris game regardless of any attempt to conceal the gameplay in some psuedo-sci-fi plot. The multiplayer games are fun and the Xbox is perfectly suited to accommodate up to four players for some head-to-head Tetris action.
The game is designed to gradually get harder and faster so your skills will increase and adapt, allowing you to get further into the game each time you play. I wouldn’t begin to try to assign an hour-value to this game. I’ve already logged more than 30 hours and I have only reached levels 8 or 9 on each of the six worlds.
Tetris Worlds is highly addictive, partly because of the trance-like music, but mainly because it’s just so much fun. Even when it’s 3am and your eyes are bloodshot and your hand is permanently shaped like a wretched claw, you can’t help but say, “just one more time” when you finally lose.
If you enjoy Tetris or just puzzle games in general, then Tetris Worlds is a great additional to your Xbox library. The Xbox version is easily the best version of this title with amazing music, gorgeous visuals, and a variety of gameplay options that will keep you glued to the screen for months to come.