I'm sure that by now, you've had to have heard of the great game called "Tetris," a Russian puzzle game universally introduced when Tengen released it illegally for the NES and universally accepted as a smash hit when Nintendo released it legally for the same system. With the great success of Tetris, both on the NES and on the GameBoy, several sequels and similar games were released, including great games like Dr. Mario and Tetris Attack. Tetris 2 was another Tetris sequel, put out on the NES and the GameBoy, but unfortunately, it just barely lives up to the name of Tetris.
Just in case you bumped your head on a block of bricks (Mario style) and developed some form of amnesia in which you can't recall any games starting with the letter T, I'll explain the Tetris process. You are given a rectangular playing field in which seven types of differently-shaped blocks, each made up of four squares, will fall, one-by-one, from the top of the screen to the bottom. As the player, you must rotate these blocks, while they are falling, and try to make full lines of squares that stretch horizontally across the playing field. Whenever such a line is made, that line of squares will disappear, causing the squares above it to drop. As you proceed, the falling speed of the blocks will increase, making it harder to play as you continue to rack up points.
That was the original Tetris. But now...
There are now no longer only seven blocks in Tetris 2, but more have been added, still all with four squares apiece, some blocks having squares that don't even adjoin. The squares which make up these blocks now vary with three different colors -- red squares, yellow squares, and blue squares. In each level, there will be bombs (colored squares with a black circle inside) hovering in several places along the playing field. What you must do is line up each bomb against two other squares of the same color, thereby making that bomb disappear; and, if a bomb that you get rid of was flashing before it was removed, all other bombs of the same color will also disappear. If all of the bombs have been removed from the playing field, you can move on to the next level; but if you stack your blocks too high, you lose.
At the start of the game, you can decide if you want to play a one-player game, player vs. computer, or one player vs. another player. The one-player mode is exactly as described above. The player vs. computer and player vs. player modes are somewhat the same, except that the screen is split up into two different playing fields, and each player must try to be the first one to get rid of their bombs without stacking their blocks to the top of the screen. But before entering any of these modes, each player has a short menu of options to choose from -- the speed of the falling blocks, the level of the game to start from, and the type of music to play. The gameplay in general reminds me of Dr. Mario, except that Dr. Mario is more entertaining.
But even more problems than just a lower-than-expected entertainment value are present. The control, though far from the worst there ever was, is still pretty bad, nonetheless. The blocks seem too eager to move to the left or right when you want them too. As you press the control pad, those blocks go zippin' across the screen faster than a guy with his clothes on fire. In addition, because some of the squares in the blocks aren't always adjoined, when one piece of the block lands on a square, the separated parts of the block will now fall independently. With this happening, those extra blocks will sometimes be falling before you even realize it. But it should be easy once you get the hang of it, you say? Try controlling two different, separated squares at one time with one control pad, then see how "easy" it really is.
Even worse than the control of the game is the graphics! Oh my gosh, this has got to be one of the ugliest games I've ever seen! The title screen has the words "Tetris 2" peeking out of a large hole in a wall of dully-colored brown bricks; at least the original Tetris game us a cool rendering of... that... uhhh... building in Moscow (I hope you know what I'm talking about) on it's title screen. The game backgrounds look like they have been attacked by a tribe of Indians; it looks like a bunch of large carvings, usually of things like birds and monkeys, upon a bland, peach-colored background, making the thing look extremely tacky. The playing field itself doesn't fare any better, with the blocks, taking on a slightly different look from the original Tetris, looking as boring as ever.
The sound is one thing that could have been a slight redeeming factor to the game, especially with the excellent musical-score of Tetris, but don't get too eager. I guess it was decided that a new style of music should be tried, and that they did, much to my dismay. One of the songs sounds more of the type to place on a mild action game and the second sounds like something out of one of those kid's shows, the kind that are so cute and childish they make you want to throw up. The third song is the only one that fits a puzzle game such as this, but even that song can be quite annoying. The sound effects are nothing more than just "thuds" and the like, so don't expect much from that.
The challenge factor is up kind of high, but that is partly due to that lack of good control, not just the game design. Many times have I made just one screw-up, due to the block moving across the screen too fast, or due to not noticing some extra falling blocks in enough time to move them to a good position, that the one screw-up will cause me to lose, even if I was doing pretty good beforehand. Fortunately, the speed levels and game levels you can set provide a handicap for those who aren't very good at the game yet.
The entertainment factor is the only redeeming factor that is keeping this game slightly above average. The game plan may have not been the most original, but it's still fun enough. There are some good points about it, though the original Tetris, as well as some other similar puzzle games, still fare to be more engrossing. Yet, the game is still fun to play during some free time. I guess you just don't mess with a game that has "Tetris" in the name. Hey, that kinda rhymed!
Well, I guess this is the part where I end the review and finish this off. Tetris 2 had too many bad design elements that try to hinder it's general appeal. But the slight enjoyment of playing this game saves it from entering Lousy Land. But if you want a real Tetris game, I would much more recommend getting the original Tetris than this one. But if the game design of this one sounds more appealing to you, you may want to try Dr. Mario first.
- Gameplay (6/10): It may be different than Tetris, but it still has some cool qualities.
- Control (4/10): Blocks moving over too fast, trying to control separate blocks at once.. ARGH!
- Graphics (3/10): Oh my, my, my. Dull, dull, dull. Tacky, tacky, tacky.
- Sound (4/10): They just had to change the music style, and now it just doesn't work well.
- Challenge (7/10): It is tough due to the higher levels, but bad control also plays a part.
- Replay (5/10): Well, it is nice to know that a Tetris sequel can still be somewhat fun.
- Overall (6/10): Fine, but it goes to show you what bad can be done to a hit game's sequel.
Thank you for reading this special edition of "When Good Games go Bad!"
Tune in for next time as we give you our second special report, "The Lie of Simplicity," as we visit the Microsoft Corporation.
My Score: 6/10