Tetris is one of those classic games that virtually everyone has played at some point. It’s easy to pick up, difficult to master, and just generally fun to play. Even though the basic gameplay hasn’t changed much in the years, new Tetris games are still being released on nearly every major system. Thanks to the strong grip the Tetris Company has on their branding, no matter which version you play, you’ll have an authentic Tetris experience. All except for that one game that slipped through their fingers. That game being “Tetris Attack” for the SNES.
To be fair, Tetris attack has a very valid reason for being so different from any other Tetris game. That being that it was never intended to even be a Tetris game at all. When it was released in Japan it was called “Panel de Pon” and featured a magical girl theme. During localization, Nintendo of America thought it would sell better under the Tetris name, as well as giving it Mario characters instead of the magical girls. The Tetris Company agreed, and would later regret, to letting Nintendo use the Tetris name. Thus, Tetris Attack was born. It has drastically different play style to any other Tetris game, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, does it?
For starters, let me explain the gameplay, since it really isn’t Tetris at all. It’s actually more similar to games like Bejeweled. The game starts with a stack of panels already on the screen and more panels slowly rising from the bottom. Your job is to clear away the panels before they reach the top of the screen. You accomplish this by moving panels around in order to make lines of three or more. Unfortunately, you can only move the panels left and right, which can make finding matches difficult at times. However, you don’t have to make a match with each move, you’re free to move the panels around as much as you want to set up chains and combos.
Taking the time to make chains and combos can really pay off, especially in the later levels. You don’t get any special tiles like in other block games, instead the stack stops rising for a few seconds depending on the complexity of your combo. It might not sound like much, but in the later levels, it gives you that extra second you need to plan out your next move, and can really make the difference between winning and losing.
For the game itself, it has several different modes of play. Of course, it has the classic endless mode. You play the game like normal for as long as you can until it finally becomes too much and you lose. It’s basic, but it’s still a lot of fun to play.
There’s also a time trial mode. In this mode you have limited time to score as many points as possible. Again, it’s very basic, but still fun.
Now we get into the real meat of the game. The puzzle mode is just what it sounds like. The panels are prearranged to make a puzzle and you have a limited number of turns to clear them all out. These start out insultingly easy, with puzzles you can solve in one move. The later levels however can get pretty crazy and I admittedly couldn’t finish all of them.
Then there’s the challenge mode, which is probably the largest part of the game. This mode is actually more of a survival mode. You have to clear panels away as quickly as you can until the clear line appears. Then you have to clear all the panels out from above that line to win. Each round is relatively short, but as you progress the levels get harder by increasing the speed and number of panels to start with. Again, I was unable to finish this mode, I got to the 3rd to last level and the speed was just too much for me.
Someday i shall defeat you!
In the challenge mode, there was also a boss battle with Bowser about half way through. You’re intended to lose this battle, but no doubt you would face him again at the end when your skills have improved. Although I only lasted about 6 seconds against Bowser, it still showed off an interesting mechanic. Instead of just surviving, Bowser had a health bar that decreased with each match made until eventually you would defeat him. It looked like fun, and I wish it was used more in the game.
The final mode also happens to be my favorite. In Tetris Attack, Vs mode also doubles as the story mode. It’s a simple story. Bowser has used his magic to make it rain all over Yoshi’s Island as well as enchant all of its residents. Only Yoshi was immune to the magic, and it’s up to him to stop the rain and save his friends.
As the name suggests, Vs mode is head to head play against the various residents of Yoshi’s Island. Now it’s not enough to just survive the level, you need to outplay your opponent. In this mode the chains and combos become even more important. Instead of stopping the panels like they did before, now they will send a large block over to your opponent’s side to ruin their day. Watch out, because they can do the same thing right back to you.
Once you’ve rescued all your friends, it’s time to head to Mt Wickedness and teach Bowser a lesson. Or, um, teach Naval Piranha a lesson. Maybe you get to fight Bowser in the higher difficulties. If that’s the case, I’ll probably never know.
Hang in there yoshi!
Gameplay – 8 / 10
The inability to move panels up and down made this feel harder than it needed to be at times, but that’s really my only complaint. The game is still fun and very addicting. There are several modes of play for whatever you feel like playing. Then the controls were just perfect, keeping up with even the most frantic of inputs. I can’t fault the game for my lack of skill, it held up perfectly from start to finish.
Graphics – 8 / 10
While not a graphically intense game, every element still had so much life to it. The color pallet was just so bright and vibrant. The backgrounds were detailed and just beautifully drawn. Even the little faces on the panels had some character. You almost feel bad for destroying them.
Audio – 9 / 10
The music in this game is just fantastic. It’s so lively and memorable. Every so often I still find myself humming one of the tunes to myself, or just have one stuck in my head, and I love it. When you’re getting close to losing a level, the music even switches to a much more frantic version of itself, and it just builds the perfect tension for the moment.
Story – 7 / 10
The story mode isn’t some sprawling epic. It’s simple, and fills the basic needs of a story. However, it’s still fun, and the inclusion of a story mode at all is a delight to see. Considering it’s a puzzle game, vs. mode could have easily been a single match like endless or time trial, but they took the time to build a story for it, and it really made the game for me.
Total Playtime – 2 h 51 m
Seeing everything the game has to offer doesn’t take long. The whole story mode only took me less than an hour. But this is one of those games that you gladly pick up and play time and time again, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Even with the time I put into it, I still didn’t finish everything, and I would love to come back and tackle them again when I get a chance.
Total Deaths – 77 Failures
Once the speed levels got up into the high 30’s I just lose it. I always get too focused on one section and before I know it the other side is already hitting the top.
Overall Score – 9 / 10
The Tetris name might have helped to push it off the shelf, but Tetris Attack can easily stand on its own. The gameplay is rather unique, and takes a little time to get used to, but it’s well worth the learning curve. Everything about this game is an embodiment of a fun game. Good graphics, good sound, good controls, likeable characters, and fun gameplay. Every aspect of the game just made me so happy while I was playing. Sure, I got frustrated at the higher levels, but never AT the game, only ever at my own lack of skill. Honestly, find a copy and add it to your SNES library. You won’t regret it.
I shall frame this for all to see!
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