Anybody who's ever played video games has heard of Tetris in one way or another. Ever since Russian computer programmer Alexey Pajitnov first created the legendary game back in 1984 it has appeared in numerous forms and variations over many different gaming systems and platforms and sold untold millions of copies. Back in 1989 Nintedo decided to bring Tetris to the NES and Game Boy but first had to fight Tengen for the NES rights to the game. Once Nintendo triumphed in the courts Tetris made its 8-bit debut and became a top seller. (Tengen would also produce their own version of Tetris for the NES but that would quickly be pulled from the shelves). But after two decades of gaming goodness does the legal NES cart still warrant a look or two?
Most anybody knows how this game works. Seven different types of tetrads (shapes constiting of four squares) fall from the ceiling and you have to figure out how arrange them in the playing field. The object is to form a solid line with no gaps, causing it to disappear. You can also manipulate the pieces to where you can eliminate two, three or even four lines at once (a Tetris). However having broken lines causes the playing field to start filling up to the top giving you less room to manipulate the shapes and as you advance levels the tetrads start falling faster and faster requiring you to make quicker decisions. As long as you keep clearing out lines the gane comtinues but if the shapes fill up the playing area to the top of the screen the game is over. There are two main gameplay modes, the normal mode where you play until you lose and a special challenge mode where you have to clear 25 lines with a pre-field field and you can even choose your starting level.
There's not really much to say about the graphics like many other puzzle games. It's just mainly the playing field and the falling pieces and the only real changes are the colors when you advance levels. The shapes do have some nice segmented looks which can help you with your strategy and you get some decent anminated scenes when you complete the B Game or finish with certain scores in the A Game. The audio is also pretty minimal, mainly a 'thump' when the blocks settle or the 'crash' when you lose. However you do get three pieces of background music that play continuously including a version of 'The Nutcracker Suite' and they all sound pretty good and don't get repetitive. Also the music speeds up if you find yourself in danger which is a nice touch.
Then you get to the gameplay and that's where Tetris really shines. This is a game that's very easy to understand and play and proves to be very addicting. The controls are easy to use and very responsive, enabling anyone to jump right in and once you master them you might find yourself pulling off some nifty moves. The difficulty level is also done very well, starting slowly at Level 0 and steadily getting faster as you progress. The fact that you can choose your starting level is a welcome option for those wanting to start slow or jump to the insane speeds. Of course the main knock on Nintendo's Tetris is the lack of playing modes. You just have the two one-player options and that's it, while the Tengen cart and most other NES puzzlers all have two player co-op and versus modes. While it's not that big of a deal it would have added just a bit more replayability. Yet with all the different sequels and knockoffs that came after it the original Tetris still has that special quality that keeps you hooked and helps it stand above the pack of puzzlers it helped spawn.
So even after 20 years and a host of successors, Tetris still proves to be one of the top puzzle carts on the gray box. Its timeless simple-yet-engaging gameplay is just as fun and addicting as it has ever been and the difficulty options let anyone jump right in. Some may prefer Tengen's offering with its two player modes but Nintendo's Tetris is still a well-done version of the Russian juggernaut.
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