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by THQ

46005_s01-01.jpg (7893 bytes)There is something to be said for obsession, I suppose. Being an obsessive-compulsive gamer myself, I was jazzed (to say the least) about the advent of Tetris Worlds on the PS2. Although I am primarily a console gamer, I am an old fan of Tetris on the PC. After all, who could say no to the lure of Tetris? Perhaps you are familiar with this scenario. "I’ll just take a little break and play a quick game of Tetris…just a few more lines…gotta break my record". The next thing you know, it’s five hours later and your work, sadly, is not done. In fact, I finally had to take Tetris off my Desktop in order to get any work done. So how does the latest console version stack up? Well…although there are some additions I really like, the old spark just isn’t there.

46005_s03-01.jpg (8608 bytes)This game presents a story and arcade mode (the latter of which allows up to four players with a Multitap), with both options featuring six "versions" of Tetris (three new and three old). These versions include Tetris, Square Tetris, Cascade Tetris, Sticky Tetris, Hot-line Tetris, Fusion Tetris, and the training game, Learning Tetris. The storyline is simple and pretty cute. The game begins with an electronic block with a fish tail that hops from the primordial slime (something that cute doesn’t crawl) and, with his large single eye blinking, looks at the six Tetris screens set up in a Stonehenge-like arrangement. Apparently, he is a Mino, the mechanical inhabitant of worlds that need to be evacuated (because of a supernova) onto worlds that are not yet habitable. Your job is to terraform each of the six new home-worlds by playing a different version of Tetris (whose blocks are referred to as Tetriminos on Tetrion boards that hold "the Matrix"). Successive levels rejuvenate the planet and release your fellow Lego-like Minos.

So what are the plusses of the game? Several new innovations top my list. The game has a six deep piece queue that really helps in planning your Tetris and lets you see when a much-needed line is going to drop. Added to that, you are also able to "hold" a piece back for later use. This is great if you get a piece that would really screw up you patterns and also lets you hold back a line for the coveted Tetris. Some might say that this takes some of the challenge out of the game, and they might be right, but sometimes it definitely spices-up the game. There is also a "ghosting" feature that allows you to see where your piece will land and how it might fit when it reaches the bottom. This feature can be turned off if it’s distracting, but I think it’s helpful to players who are just learning and for those who are "spatially challenged." The only time I found it problematic was when I got close to the top of the screen and the pieces were moving mach ten—this ghosting can make you misplace some pieces if you aren’t careful. The last option that I liked was the addition of a "soft drop" which causes the pieces to fall faster than normal, but still allows for movement of the piece at the bottom, (rather than just a hard drop which locks in the piece position with no option for movement). I like the soft drop because I get really impatient at lower levels for pieces to drop, but I still want to be able to position them. This gets rid of much of the stress of not being able to start at higher levels (a la the original computer version).

46005_s02-01.jpg (10192 bytes)What didn’t work for me in the gameplay arena? First of all, each game only goes to level 15, which precludes marathon "I can get more lines than you can" play or the element of the infinite possible points that keeps obsessives like me playing all night. Also, all of the six versions are on a timer system, with point goals that have to be met in the allotted time. I think this element would have been great if it had just been used on one of the games, but it was present in all of them. For those of us who are used to counting lines, this seems somewhat unsatisfying. Which brings me to my biggest gripes with Tetris World—the original game never makes an appearance. With great classics like Centipede and Pacman that somehow manage to fit the old, no-space required games on the disk along with the new updates, I was pretty much shocked that THQ didn’t include the original that we all know and love (and are addicted to). Not only that, but the "versions" of Tetris that are included are so similar that the "variation" is pretty minimal. I was at least expecting a variant of the 3-D game that others had attempted before, but no such luck. I think the paradigm of giving old-school gamers what they want while simultaneously injecting 21st Century tech got lost in with game.

The other elements of the game range from solid to puzzling. I still can’t figure out why, on the single player arcade mode, they don’t blow up your "Matrix" to full screen. Rather, they leave the two-player screen up and squeezing your screen between the two side screens. I also don’t see why the arcade game interrupts with a "You Won, and Here’s Your Stats" screen between each level (which happens way too frequently for experienced players in the early levels). The graphics (what there are for such a simple game), are solid, and the music, although reminiscent of eighties roller-skating rink fare (hey, I kinda like that fact!!) is an appropriate backdrop. The plot is also appropriately simple, but has just enough of the "cute" element to be appealing.

46005_s04-01.jpg (10234 bytes)In the final analysis, I have to say I wouldn’t spend the hefty sum to own this game myself. I love some of the new additions in gameplay, but the lack of variation and unlimited line possibilities makes the replay value pretty much nil and the story mode too short for old-timers like me. However, I would recommend this game for kids just cutting their teeth in the Tetris world. The "ghosting" function is a great learning tool and hand-eye coordination is coupled with the advancement of visual/spatial arrangement skills. They would also appreciate the cute element and would love the storyline (and they probably wouldn’t be jaded by the fact that the original version isn’t included!). I would suggest renting this first just to make sure the appeal is there for your particular youngster. Most of the younger kids I know liked this style of game in Tetris and Dr. Mario type titles, and many actually hadn’t gotten spoiled from a simple game like this by more complex adventure titles and fighting games. Perhaps kids can maintain more eclectic objectivity than adults? Either way, this game was trying to build on the previous installations without including the cornerstone of the franchise, and didn’t provide me with enough new material to give it a rousing endorsement. Perhaps I’ll take a quick break here and revisit my Desktop instead. Hmmmm….

Monica Hafer   (05/15/2002)


Ups: Lots of gameplay modes; queue displays six pieces; ghosting; soft drop.

Downs: Variations don't change much; too many  timed challenges.

Platform: PlayStation 2