Nintendo has a knack for bundling in compelling software with its hardware to create a must-have experience. The first so-called system seller was Super Mario Bros. for the NES. Many companies would be tempted to hold back their most entertaining and addictive games to attach an additional item to the sale, but Nintendo has smartly adopted the razor/razorblade approach of bundling together a product with all the necessary parts at a cheap price to gain market penetration into millions of homes. Once customers discover how amazingly great the product is they’ll rush out and buy more software and accessories. This tactic worked amazingly well for the NES and it appears a repeat is in order for the newest gaming system on the block, Game Boy.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months you likely already know what a Game Boy is. Nintendo’s multimillion dollar ad campaign is in full force and this new black and white portable system is no doubt at the top of kids’ Christmas lists across the country. Packed in with this innovative gadget is the addicting puzzle game Tetris. You’re forgiven if the name isn’t instantly recognizable, but we think in a year’s time everyone will have heard of this gem of a game. It has been available on various PCs and in arcades for the last few years, but by bundling it in with the Game Boy I’m sure millions more will be entranced by its unique gameplay mechanics – which transcend the normal parameters of what many consider a video game.
At its core Tetris is a rather simple concept with even simpler controls. Various shaped blocks made up of four segments (tetra) fall one at a time from the top of the screen. You have the ability to rotate them four different ways as they drop and you can move them left and right as well. Your goal is to prevent them from piling all the way up to the top of the screen. To accomplish this you will create horizontal rows of blocks and once a complete line is filled in it will disappear. Simply getting rid of one line at a time won’t earn you the big points though. The strategy is to let the blocks build up so that you can take out multiple rows at the same time. The most you can disappear in one go is four, and it’s called, appropriately enough, a Tetris. For every ten lines that you complete the level is increased and the blocks begin falling a little bit faster. How long can you last before your screen is filled up with blocks?
Tetris is definitely one of those games that must be played to fully understand its appeal. Simply looking at screens does the game no justice at all. The simple graphics and geometric shapes make for a perfect first entry on the Game Boy’s monochrome LCD screen. What the game lacks in the detailed graphics department it more than makes up for it in gameplay. It features perfect controls allowing players to easily line up blocks and create new lines. With seven different shaped blocks the piles can become a jagged mess and it can be difficult to form new lines. Luckily you can rotate the blocks as they’re falling and easily slide them into place. As you get better with your strategy you’ll want to utilize the NEXT display, which shows you what block is going to drop next. This can help you maximize your decisions to try and formulate a plan to knock out the most lines you can at any given moment. Once you have a few rounds under your belt it becomes second nature. It’s the perfect pick up and play game for on the go gaming.
For even more challenging fun be sure to link up your Game Boy with a friend to play two players. In this mode you each get your own screen and one person plays as Mario and the other Luigi. Just like before your goal is to complete as many lines as you can. It’s even more important here to try to avoid just making single lines though. That’s because if you can clear multiple lines at once you will send your cleared lines to your opponent! If you can get a double line, one of the lines will appear on your friend’s screen. A triple sends two lines and a Tetris sends an amazing four lines. This makes your opponent’s screen fill up faster toward the top of the screen and is a surefire way of eliminating them from the round. But you have to be careful, because they can do the same to you!
I found these two player battle matches to be a ton of fun, especially since you’re playing against another human opponent – no two games are ever the same! It sort of becomes like a tug-of-war where each side is constantly sending lines to the other. You can keep track of how high the other player’s stack of lines is by looking at a small thermometer gauge on the left side of the screen. Strategies will change on the fly as the games become more intense. As you approach the top of the screen it might be best to make a bunch of single lines to try and lower your stack of blocks, but at the same time it could be better to wait and try to send a bunch of lines over to your opponent. The choice is yours!
For the first time we get the full stereo sound treatment in a Nintendo machine. The Game Boy itself only has a single mono speaker, but hook up the included ear buds and you’ll be treated to some awesome stereo music and sound effects. The included musical numbers in Tetris are all fantastic and really work well with the puzzle style of game. There are three main themes to choose from and they’re all great, although I’m a little partial to A-Type. If you find the background music too distracting you even have the option to turn it off.
Including the rather unknown Tetris cartridge with every Game Boy system is genius on Nintendo’s part because it’s easily one of the most approachable and addicting games I’ve ever played. It’s a rarity to see a title appeal to both kids and adults alike, but this one definitely does. It’s one of those amazing games that demand “just one more round” and before you know it hours have passed by. Including the Game Link cable and the cartridge with every system means you should have no trouble finding someone to challenge. The only nitpick I can levy against the game is that it lacks a battery back up so your hard-fought high scores are reset every time you power down. That’s hardly reason for concern though, given how much fun is packed into this tiny cartridge and the insane replay value. Nintendo has another hit on its hands. Once you play this one you’ll be hooked for life.
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 9.5/109.5/10
- Gameplay - 10/1010/10
- Lasting Appeal - 10/1010/10
Final Thoughts: OUTSTANDING
Tetris is an instant classic that will sell Game Boys across the world. It’s one of the most approachable and addicting games ever created and is perfectly suited for Nintendo’s new portable system. The inclusion of two-player head-to-head play is just the icing on top of an already incredible Game Pak.