Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tetris (PSP)

You can make a pretty decent case that Tetris is the best video game ever made. For those that have somehow missed Teris, it's a puzzle game where you have to arrange falling variously shaped blocks so that they form an unbroken line across the playing field. It's a very simple idea, but something very fun.

Yet the basic formula has been screwed up. Tetris Worlds for instance, for the PS2, kept the gameplay but took away the score. Another recent version turned it into a dancing mascot show.

So I was a little apprehensive buying this version, especially at a fairly stiff price (at least for a PSPMini) of $9.99. Happily though, this version goes back to its roots and is one of the better versions I've played.

First off, it goes back to the traditional gameplay. That is, you keep clearing lines with the blocks dropping faster and faster until finally you can't clear them anymore. It has a plain, somewhat stark playing field, no fancy animations or distractions in the background. Crisp, responsive controls, usually more of a problem in clones, but some official versions have been sluggish.

So the core of what makes Tetris, Tetris, is here and quite well done. That said, it does seem to be a bit harder than the gameboy versions. It's been a few years since I played but I used to be able to hit 100 lines cleared all the time, and my record is well over 200. In this, it took me quite a few attempts to break 100.

Besides the original gameplay, you have about a dozen variants. These need to be unlocked by simply playing the main mode or some of the already unlocked variants.

Most of the variants apply some sort of special condition to the playing board and require you to clear 40 lines, as opposed to going until you lose. There's even one that is inspired by the PSP's flagship puzzle game, Lumines, where the blocks disappear with the sweep of a scanner

Some of the explanations of the variants could be clearer. For instance, I can't really make out heads or tails of how the gravity one works. Didn't seem to be any different than regular Tetris when I played it.

None of them seem to be better than real tetris, but they provide an interesting change of pace. And they are suited for shorter bursts of play, most can be completed in about 5-6 minutes, whereas as full game of Tetris can take ten or more.

Beyond that, it keeps track of various stats and has Xbox like achievements. Which don't do anything for me, but could drive some people to play more.

Anyway, could it be better? Yes. I miss the rocket launching from the original Tetris. A custom soundtrack feature would have been nice. I always have Robert Plant's "Tall Cool One" in my head while playing this, since that's what we called the long, straight piece back in my college days. So it would be nice to actually hear it on my PSP, not just in my head as I play.

But all in all, it's a very nicely done product, even if it is an Iphone port. 9/10