I’m a Tetris junky. Always have been. Always will be. I think Tetris, more than any other game, is truly relevant to 100% of the human population. The basic concepts or learning how to pack things together efficiently and preparing for future occurrences with only a small amount of time, are life skills that every single person, regardless of gender, age, religion, race, or any other identifier makes use of on an almost daily basis. Personally, I relate Tetris to basically everything. When I’m packing a suitcase or food in my fridge, or the various cards I have in my wallet, it always comes back to Tetris. The original release of the first version of the game was in 1984. Since then there have been countless remakes, alternate versions, specialized modes, and so on. But the general idea of Tetris and the iconic appearance of the basic game layout has never really changed. And rightly so. So I can admit that my choice to review Tetraminos was not because I had some grand expectation for some new evolved form of Tetris. I simply hadn’t played a solid game of Tetris in quite a while and liked the idea of having a version of it on my Switch.
Tetraminos is not by any means some spectacular new way to play Tetris. In fact I’d say that the controls are average at best. But it is a smoothly running version of Tetris that looks nice and has a few extra game modes. If you’re looking for some entirely new concept that will change the way you think about the classic packing puzzle, stop reading now because this isn’t it. But if you want a solid enough version of the original game to play on your Switch, then this may be what you’ve been looking for.
The graphics are very nice. Even though it’s just blocks, this game has a very clean finish. The menus are simple, yet slick. The color scheme has the slightest bit of sci-fi feel to it, making use of purples and blues blurred into beautiful patterns of mixed animations. The entire game is elegantly simple and beautiful in a way that is similar but entirely different from the original Tetris.
The gameplay screen looks basically the same as it always has. You have your rectangular gameplay area in the center with a death line at the top. The grid squares are not permanent in this one though. Instead they appear and disappear continuously as you play, which works very well. The landing shadow of the current falling piece is still always present though. On the left side you have your score or timer depending on which mode you’re playing in. On the right side you have your next piece indicator, and piece counter if you’re in puzzle mode. The pieces can be in various colors and shapes as with all forms of Tetris.
The backgrounds during gameplay are a decent number of simple yet awesome looking Tetris block murals with lots of colors and design choices. These backgrounds change as you survive through each milestone during a single game. The game runs very smoothly and there were absolutely no instances of lag. The only issue I noticed was that when you quit to the main menu the loading time seems a bit longer than it should be. Of course it’s a simple looking game, but in this case Sanuk Games did simple quite well.
The basic gameplay is the same as all other forms of Tetris. Use the falling shapes to make rows that disappear when completed. If you stack shapes up past the line then you lose. The basic controls are moving the pieces left and right and rotating them. You can also insta-drop pieces when you want to. You can use every type of Switch controller to play in multiplayer, and they all work pretty well. The gamepad was the controller I used the most because it is your only control option in single player mode. But I’m inclined to say that the basic Wii-mote might be the best option because of how simple it is and the rotate button’s location is actually much more intuitive than on the other controllers in my opinion. You can use the d-pad or left stick to move pieces. The d-pad is more reliable because for some reason up is auto drop and you tend to unintentionally lean the stick up while playing which will hurt you a lot from all the accidental drops. The controls can’t be mapped so you have to get used to using the shoulders or B button to rotate instead of the traditional up on the d-pad. It takes some getting used to but it’s not a huge problem. One thing you will notice is that as the game speeds up you will feel a lot more limitation to your movement. Often you will be trying to get pieces over to either side before they get too low and you just won’t be able to, even if you started the move from the beginning of the drop. The amount of floor crawl time you get in Tetraminos seems a bit shorter than other versions of Tetris I’ve played. It’s not a problem at the beginning stages but by the time you’ve gotten to speed 10 it will be what ultimately takes you out.
There are four gameplay modes available. Endless mode is your basic Tetris. It just keeps going and speeding up every so often. I couldn’t quite gauge how many lines you need to clear to move to the next level because there’s no indicator, but the game does tell you when it occurs. The endless mode is not measured in levels but speeds. Each time you progress to the next stage or whatever word you want to use, the speed of the pieces increases. The current speed is shown on the left of the screen under your total score. The top speed is x10, but I only had to play the endless mode twice to reach that speed.
Challenge mode is basically endless mode but with a timer. You keep playing and the speed keeps increasing as you progress just like in the endless mode, but you have a certain amount of time to complete an ever increasing number of lines. Failure to clear enough lines in time results in a game over as does building up past the death line. The timer regains time each time you clear a line and each time you clear a challenge it refills to full. Honestly the timer isn’t a serious challenge. You are given ample time to clear each challenge. It was never a concern and not what ultimately led to me losing. I cleared 27 challenges on the first try.
Puzzle mode is probably the most interesting of the four, but also the least fun to play in my opinion. There are 50 puzzles where you are given a starting layout of blue tiles and 30 pieces. You need to clear all the blue tiles before you run out of pieces. You are given a score of one to three stars based on how many pieces you used. It’s not too hard to finish the puzzles but getting three stars on all of them is a bit challenging because you have no control over the order that those 30 pieces drop.
The multiplayer is up to four players in a side by side layout and is basically just endless mode but whenever anyone clears a line the other players have a line added to the bottom of their stack. You play until only one player is still alive.
The two most noteworthy ways that Tetraminos differs from other forms of Tetris is that it has 12 different piece types instead of the traditional seven. Not all the pieces in this game are made up of four blocks, thus the change in name from Tetris. You can get single block pieces, which are amazingly useful as well as two, three, and five piece blocks. In many ways this makes the game quite a bit easier than traditional Tetris. But that five block cross piece tends to screw your layout up big time. The other change is that color actually matters. You get bonus points if you get a color strike which is to clear a row all of the same color. This is challenging because you have no control over the colors dropped, but it’s nowhere near impossible. I have only two big issues with this game. My biggest is that the leaderboard and multiplayer is local only. You can play up to four players and there are leaderboards for both the endless and challenge modes, but it all has to be done in house. I could definitely see myself playing this game online if the option was available. My second much smaller, but still noticeable issue is that the max speed you can get up to is x10. Once you get that high in endless mode the challenge is just to keep surviving even if you could personally handle it moving faster, which I can. All in all, the gameplay is pretty good and I enjoyed playing this a lot, but the lack of online options makes it get old pretty fast because I don’t live with a bunch of people to compete with and working your way up to maximum speed level play takes no time at all.
The sound is as good as one could hope for in a Tetris game. The quality is great but you can’t set the volume levels. The only options you have are to toggle on/off the music, effects, or voice over separate from each other. Everything is mixed pretty well. The effects are pretty standard. There are sounds for dropping pieces, clearing rows, and a sound for when you’re close to passing the death line. The voice over is a robotic female voice that tells you when you accomplish things like move up to the next speed or complete a color strike. There is only one looping song in the game and while it is good and very balanced, it’s not nearly as iconic as the original Tetris song. You won’t be playing this game for the sound, but the sound is by no means done badly in this.
There is no writing except for the tutorials. There are just a few short explanation slides, but they tell you everything you need to know so I guess that’s a win for the writer.
The only real replay value that you don’t set for yourself is that there are 50 puzzles to clear. Each puzzle takes a matter of minutes at most and sometimes less than that. I couldn’t say how much total gameplay time you’ll get out of this because it’s too contingent on your own goals and access to other players in house. My own endless mode runs can easily last around an hour at times. At $5 I’m inclined to say the price is fair, but by no means a great deal for something as old as Tetris which can easily be played online for free in your web browser. If it had online multiplayer and leaderboards then I’d say $5 was a great price. Maybe they’ll add it in an update down the road, but I doubt it.
All in all, I really enjoyed playing Tetraminos, but at the end of the day you can’t really go wrong with a smooth running Tetris clone. There’s nothing iconic or magical about this version of the game, but it does have some merits like the additional five piece types. I wouldn’t say this is a must buy, but I don’t regret the fact that I took the time to experience it myself.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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