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Tetris (NES) artwork

Tetris (NES) review

"While the colors continued changing, I noticed something else rather distressing, though. The more lines I cleared, the faster things got. Pretty soon blocks were flying all over the place and it was simply more than I could do to keep up. I started screaming at the television and my daughter--bless her soul--came into the room to make sure I wasn't having a stroke. The screen filled up about that time and I was told my game was over."

There's not really an interesting way to convey this point, so I'll just come right out and say it: Tetris is a game where you arrange falling blocks so that as they fill up a screen, there are no holes and the blocks disappear before they reach the top. Maybe you've heard of it before. In that case, nothing I write here is going to change your mind because you know you love the game, your fingers are itching to play it even now, and the world in general makes sense. But for those of you who somehow have not played the game, a thoughtful approach is very important. After much consideration, I've decided there's only one way to do the game justice with this review: I'll pretend I'm a granny.

Back in my day, we didn't ride in these new cars you kids like so much. We walked to school, and it was raining and it was an excruciating uphill climb both to and from the little shack we called our classroom. My legs get the shakes when I think of it, even now. You kids don't know how lucky you are, that's for sure. And video games? We didn't have such nonsense back when that nice Kennedy boy was President. We didn't have them, and the world was a better place for it! The other day, I was going to start a letter-writing campaign to make games illegal. But just before I could, I picked up my grandson's old NES controller--he's on the junior varsity team at his high school, you know--and I turned the power on. I daresay I've changed my mind about the whole issue.

When the screen flickered into sight, I squinted and read some of the colorful words on the screen. Did I mention television used to appear only in black and white? Color's just one more sign of the times, and this game uses it like it's going out of style! The main thing that caught my eye was 'Electronorgtechninica,' which I guess must be one of those foolish names the people who made this game assigned to themselves. I'll never understand the minds of you young people. Anyway, there was text alluding to that, and from there what I'm told is called the 'title screen.'

Looking at it, I'm forced to think of Russia. Commies, every one of them. Would you believe they once tried to bomb our nation? It's true! We had a bomb shelter in my back yard. I'll show you it later. Anyway, I started thinking that I probably shouldn't play the game, not if Lenin was going to be peering over my shoulder the whole time. But my curiosity was piqued, and I pressed the 'Start' button on the controller (would it have killed Nintendo to make a large print controller for those of us with tri-focals?).

The screen I saw next is what my grandson calls the 'options' screen. This demonic music began playing, and I could almost imagine someone dropping babies out the window like that Michael Jackson fellow. ''A, B, C, drop the baby!'' he would shout, and that racket would play in the background, prodding him on. So irritated was I by this music that I almost turned the game off right then and there. Somehow, though, I persevered, knowing I just had to see how corrupt our society has become. So I pushed the 'down' direction on my controller, and blessedly the music changed. I discovered then that there are actually three tunes in the game, or you can even play with no music if you like (better for the nerves, say I).

With my game options chosen, I pressed the 'start' button to get the show on the road. Then I saw that I could pick a level. Well, this was my first time playing, so I saw the numbers '0' through '9' and picked '1' (what do they mean with the '0' level, anyway?). I also noted a score table of sorts just below that. Nice names on there, Howard and Lance. And Otasan, whoever that is. Probably a demon, I figured at the time. But this was no time to dawdle, so I pressed 'Start' again, and here it was that I found how the game actually works. Here it was that I sold my soul to the mystery that is Tetris.

It began simply enough, and looked much more innocent than the devilry that preceded it. Likely to lull me into a false sense of security. You know how that old Devil works! There was this big box at the center of the screen, and it was black as black can be. To the sides, there was some sort of statistics table, showing a bunch of odd shapes. I noticed one of them said '001' next to it, and sure enough, a piece of something green was falling down that screen. It matched that very shape. To say the least, I was startled.

I found that I could move the piece around with the little cross-shaped thing on my controller. When I pushed its left side, the piece on the screen moved that way. Same if I pushed 'right.' And pushing 'down' made it fall faster, which I can assure you was the last thing in the world I wanted just then. That got me to wondering what would happen if I pushed one of the little red circles, and to my surprise they caused the piece to spin. It was all very exciting, almost too much for my old heart, but then the piece landed at the bottom of the screen. To my surprise, another one started falling. I almost wet myself.

A few pieces later, I looked to the right of the box, and I saw that there was a box that said 'Next.' It showed me what piece would be coming next. I soon put two and two together, and realized that you can actually use strategy in the game. It's the only explanation for that window. But what to do? I really didn't know. Still, it seemed a bit like an ugly jigsaw puzzle, the way the pieces kind of slid together and looked all cozy, one next to another. So I decided I was going to do the obvious thing, and just put them as tight as I could. It wasn't so hard at first. The pieces fit really nice and before long, I had a pretty nice stack with only a few holes. Then this big long piece came plowing down the screen, and I slid it in my hole real nice. There was this blinding flash and a bunch of the blocks disappeared. I couldn't help but be amazed, but I noticed the line with a little space in it stayed right where it was.

Seems I'd guessed right about how you're supposed to play the game. I resolved to keep those spaces from coming at all and, dearie me, it worked! When I'd made a few lines disappear, the blocks on my screen suddenly changed color to purple. It reminded me of the quilt I'm working on for my granddaughter. And so it went, as every once in awhile the colors on the screen would change for no reason at all. Once it startled me so much I knocked over my glass of prune juice and made a mess. Glad I had some napkins handy.

While the colors continued changing, I noticed something else rather distressing, though. The more lines I cleared, the faster things got. Pretty soon blocks were flying all over the place and it was simply more than I could do to keep up. I started screaming at the television and my daughter--bless her soul--came into the room to make sure I wasn't having a stroke. The screen filled up about that time and I was told my game was over.

''Oh,'' she said when she saw me sitting just fine in the arm chair, ''you're just playing Tetris. You should try the 'B' game, Ma.''

So I took her advice the next time around. After all, why shouldn't I? If the 'A' game was so good, then the 'B' one had to be even better. Only when I sorted through my options, it wanted to start me at level 0 all over again, and at height '0'. I figured that made no sense at all, so I set things up to level '1' again, and I put the height to '2' just because I was feeling frisky. Well, the game started and there I was with a bunch of holes all over the place, and blocks falling down before I even had time to see what was what. Apparently, some people actually pick this mode on purpose to give themselves a challenge, but I just can't fathom it. Like I've said before, I'll never understand how you young people think.

Anyway, I guess what it all comes down to is that I didn't ever get around to writing those letters. I'm too busy playing Tetris! And my grandson says when I'm done with that, he'll show me Grand Theft Auto. I can't wait. Video games aren't so bad after all!

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Staff review by Jason Venter (May 22, 2004)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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