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Tetris (Game Boy) artwork

Tetris (Game Boy) review

"To summarize the Tetris experience is to quote Maynard James Keenan of the great rock band Tool -- as I am often wont to do: I know the pieces fit! "

I could sit here and tell you about the landmark significance that Tetris has in the gaming world. Really, I could. But I think it's been done quite a bit. We know a clever Russian gentleman (it's a bit much for me to assume he was a gentleman -- why, he could have been an absolute boor, we simply do not know the man) designed the thing, and somehow Nintendo got a hold of it and haven't looked back. We know that the game in all its black and white blurriness, was probably responsible for selling a few football fields of GameBoys when the now crippled and senile system first came along. But what you may not know, if you are one of the only people in the modern world who has not yet played it, is this: there is no better toilet fodder.

Feel my courage! Taste my rebelliousness! I'm writing this review at the risk of sounding unprofessional, uncouth, irreverent even. I'm writing it based on years of Tetris-playing on the can.

So with a tip of the cap to delightful irony, I present to you, a well. Or really, a rectangle of white space, into which blocks of varying sizes and shapes can be dropped. Fill a horizontal line with shapes, from one side to the next, and you'll clear that line of matter. We are aware that blocks dropping from the sky in this way will eventually fill this well, this rectangle of whiteness. It's the line-making that prevents this from happening. As horizontal lines are made, they disappear, shifting everything down, keeping the well from filling to the top where a nasty game over screen just itches to manifest. Don't let this happen.

Yet, how do you fight fate? How do you keep rain from filling your mailbox outside when the hole in the bottom drains precious little? That's the challenge of Tetris. It's insistent, relentless. The bloody shapes just keep dropping: ''L'' shapes (facing both ways), ''T'' shapes, squares, slim rectangles (your godsend!) and little ''h'' shaped pieces that I like to describe as chairs that are missing their back legs. All the pieces can be rotated this way and that so that you can pack them as neatly into the bed of shapes you've collected, nestled below. For the love of god, pack neatly. Pack as if you're going on a long trip, whose destination is uncertain. If you are so skillful and fortunate as to pack a four-line-high stack, leaving a single, vertical, four-line-high space somewhere to drop the four-block-high rectangle -- you'll create what is known as a Tetris.

Managing this will net you big points, but it's risky -- if you keep stacking without trying to complete any lines just so you can come up with that long piece that gives you the four-liner you've been dreaming of, you may find yourself with a load dangerously encroaching on the well's top. And that rectangle may never come. Random as the game might pretend to be, I know it isn't! I know in my heart of hearts that sometimes it is with me, and provides the pieces essential to my game's perfection; and other times the cart is a malevolent sentience bent on my destruction, furnishing me with the same useless pieces over and over, forcing my hand at erecting the Leaning Tower until oblivion comes.

If you haven't been able to tell from my dramatics, get with it: Tetris is a compelling phenomenon. It's addicting, and it's unbelievably approachable, like all simple ideas done just right. While any fool can get into it, only a lucky bastard of a genius will keep the mailbox draining when the game speeds up and the water threatens inundation. I have had this game forever, and I still play it. The highest compliment I can pay it: When my bowels call, I go running for Tetris, and the toilet.

In that order.

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 21, 2004)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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