On July 31st 1989, North America was first introduced to the Nintendo Gameboy System. That means today will mark the system’s 30th anniversary. With that in mind I thought it would be fun to take a quick look at the game packed in with every one of those systems, Tetris!
By now, I expect everyone that has ever played a video games to have played at least one form of the game Tetris at some point in their life. It is the classic puzzle game where shaped blocks, known as Tetriminos, fall from the top of the screen for you the player to stack at the bottom. Form complete rows of blocks to make them disappear, and keep doing that for as long as you can. Now that everyone is caught up on the rules of the game, let’s see what the Gameboy version has to offer!
When you turn on the game, you are given two choices of game type as well as three choices of music. But let’s be honest, everyone just played with the default settings, so let’s get right into it. Once you pick the game type and music, you also given the option to set the starting level, which adjusts the game speed. With everything selected, it’s time to start the game.
As stated before, various 4 block shapes named Tetriminos will drop from the top part of the playfield and the goal is to arrange them together along the bottom. Once placed, they cannot be moved again. You can only keep stacking the new pieces on top of them. The shape and order of the pieces is also random, so there isn’t much option to plan too far ahead. However, you are allowed to see the next piece coming so you have at least some ability to plan out your placements.
Just placing the Tetriminos neatly next to each other isn’t enough though. You need to place them so that every available space in a given row has been filled with a block piece. Doing this will clear the whole row and drop down the blocks above it to give you more room.
However, even with the best stacking ability, you’ll eventually find yourself with a piece that simply doesn’t fit anywhere very nicely at all. This inevitably creates holes that are now impossible to fill in and the stack starts getting higher and higher.
But don’t despair. If you are persistent, you can clear row after row of blocks and slowly dig yourself out of any problematic placements you may have made.
Unfortunately, clearing more and more lines causes its own problems. For every 10 lines cleared, you gain a level. This causes the Tetriminos to drop faster, giving you less time to think and pick out good placements. Because of this, you will inevitably end up placings more blocks in less than ideal positions as the game gets faster and faster.
But as I said before, there is no need to despair. With some careful placement you can get the pile right back down to a manageable size. You may even be able to clear 4 lines at once with a well-placed straight piece.
Sadly, the game is one that is meant to be lost. Eventually the mistakes will build up far enough that you simply can’t keep up with it. Once the blocks become stacked all the way to the top, the game is over. In my game I actually managed to clear 110 lines before this happened. A personal best I believe.
Heading back to the start screen, we’ll check out what the B-Type game is. In this game type, we are again given the option to adjust the starting level, but we are also given the option of how high the tower will start.
For the most part, gameplay in B-Type is the same as in A-Type. However, the goal is different. Instead of being an endless challenge, B-Type has the set goal of clearing 25 lines in whatever way possible. Considering I managed 110 lines in A-Type, this might sound easy. Well, that’s where the High setting comes in. Having set my game to 3 High, the playfield begins with several rows of randomly placed blocks to make things more difficult.
But just like in A-Type, careful block placement can quickly chip away at any misshapen block tower. Eventually I managed to clear the required 25 lines of blocks and the game comes to a winning conclusion. Points are then awarded for the method used to clear each of the 25 lines. Obviously clearing single lines at a time are worth less than getting a Tetris by clearing 4 at once. But a win is a win, and we have now seen what this game has to offer.
Gameplay – 9 / 10
It’s Tetris. You really can’t screw up Tetris. Later versions of the game introduced some new features like ghost pieces, and lock delay among a few other things. However, there is nothing wrong with the classic gameplay. What’s more impressive is that this game offered a two player option for friends that had two systems, two games and a link cable to connect them with. As the pack in game, it was obviously the first one to do this and really highlighted what the system was capable of.
Graphics – 9 / 10
Once again, it’s Tetris. There isn’t really much you can do with Tetris. So in that regard, there isn’t really anything to complain about with the graphics. Color would be nice, but not possible on the original Gameboy. There could have been some additional animations when a line was cleared, or when the game was over. But in the end there’s nothing really WRONG with the graphics as presented.
Audio – 10 / 10
There are 3 songs to choose from, but everyone always just picks A-Type. It is a rendition of the Russian folk song Korobeiniki and has since become synonymous with the Tetris franchise. Having become such a recognizable song since its use here just goes to show how perfect of a song choice it was for the game.
Story – N/A
Unless I’m missing something, I don’t believe there is a “Story” to Tetris.
Total Playtime – N/A
What makes Tetris so much fun is that you can either sit down and play it for 5 minutes, or if you’re really good, you can potentially play forever. For my game, A-Type lasting about 15 minutes while B-Type only took about 5 minutes.
Total Deaths – N/A
For the classic gameplay, there isn’t really a winning condition, so every game eventually ends in failure with the blocks stacking up to the top of the play field. It’s just something you have to accept as in inevitability. The only way to actually WIN the game is to play the B-Type game where you win once you clear 25 lines.
Overall Score – 9 / 10
The Gameboy version of Tetris wasn’t the best version of the game ever released, nor was it even the first version released. However, it was the version that brought the game to the spotlight and secured its place as one of the great classics of video games. Since then, Tetris has found its way to virtually every device possible, from console, to pc, to phone, and even to calculator. It is instantly recognizable the world over, and will hold a special place in gaming for years to come. Since it was the pack in game with every Gameboy System, it is in no way rare, and can be purchased for just a few dollars. So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of your own, even if it’s just to hold a small piece of gaming’s history in your own hands.
Here’s to another 30 years for the Gameboy!
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