Tetris enjoys a long and complicated inception, its creation from behind the iron curtain and emerging to be the flagship title for Nintendo’s handheld are tales of legend. Its presence on the Gameboy ensured that the handheld became the colossal and dominant success we now know it to be. It’s a title that is so intrinsically linked with the culture of the machine that when you mention Tetris, the Gameboy version is invariably the first that comes to mind. The Russian Alexey Pajitnov’s puzzle classic has also been cloned more times than any other game title throughout the decades.
Tetris’ success comes from its almost perfect elements from the theme of the game to the layout, music and cleverly designed visuals blending together. The Gameboy version also became the ideal game to play on the move, not to mention being the first handheld interlink title. Tetris is a game that anyone can pick up immediately, no tutorial levels are necessary and whether you play it for five minutes or five hours, it still retains that draw factor and attention.
Tetris is a simple puzzle game with an addictive personality. This block puzzler saw you rotate blocks at 90 degrees to slot them in to make straight lines. The game was fun yet challenging to master. As the game progresses you saw the speed of the falling blocks get faster. Forcing the player to react faster and play even more strategically. The game ends when the blocks get to the top of the screen. As mentioned earlier this was one of the first multiplayer titles on the Gameboy. If you had a friend who had a Gameboy and a version of Tetris then you could battle it out in a special multiplayer mode. This was a fantastic feature to have when you’re out and about.
The physics are so fluid, continuous and effortless to use. They are also extremely clever. Sliding a shape under a shape requires timing. accurately judging the gravity as the levels progress. This also promotes forward planning, calculating the shape repetition, and on the higher levels, quick reflexes of mind and body. The difficulty curve is perfectly pitched as well. When you start at level 0, creating lines on the screen can be done blindfolded however progression paves a way to a fast, mindbending gaming experience. Tetris has set the benchmark for every puzzle title made ever since.
What makes the GameBoy version impressive is the graphical refinements that are employed. The original game relied on colours to differentiate each of the 7 shapes; the monochrome display of the handheld could not do this. So each shape is carefully patterned so that they look distinctive. A clever aspect and workaround which makes it easy to glance at the screen and know exactly what is happening. The layout is also superbly crafted as are the celebratory animations.
I can’t continue to discuss this game without mentioning the music, the 8-bit tunes are compositions that everyone recognises. The in-game soundtrack became one of the top-selling tracks of the ’90s by Dr Spin. There was a danger that its repetitive techno-nature may become annoying but like the immersive gameplay, it quickly becomes an addictive experience. I once attempted to play the game without the background soundtrack, the title loses some of its magic. The Sound Effects are also part of the games unique charm, bringing a sense of individuality to the mix and instantly recognisable.
Tetris is a game that virtually needs no introduction. It’s one of the flagship titles for Nintendo’s Gameboy and enjoys a rich history from inception to publication. This is one of the most addictive games that has ever graced any video game system. The responsive control mechanisms help reinforce the immersive gameplay and a hummable soundtrack.
Chris McAuley is a Northern Irish born author, comic book and gaming columnist who has now branched out from talking about comics to helping create them. An acclaimed colourist for 2000 AD and Marvel he has worked on flagship titles such as Judge Dredd, Roy of the Rovers and Hulkverines. Chris also has a commitment to the Indie scene being an inker and colourist for ‘The Lang Way Hame’ a Scottish comic which is tipped for an award later this year. With close ties to heroes of the industry such as the ‘Godfather of British comics’ Pat Mills and Spawn creator Todd McFarlene,