Hands up if you’ve never played Tetris? Nah, didn’t think there would be many of you.
Over the years the world’s most recognisable game has had plenty of time to adapt and evolve, but the fact is the basic premise of Tetris is exactly the same as it was when it was first created thirty years ago.
Having released on near enough every single videogame format known to man, thanks to SoMa Play and Ubisoft, it’s now time for it to appear on the Xbox One with Tetris Ultimate. Does the most extreme version of Tetris bring anything new to the table or is it something only the hardcore shape dropping fans should look at?
Well, if you’re looking for new then you’ll be out of luck.
As is always the case, you’ll spend your time guiding seven various forms of Tetriminos down from the top of the screen to the bottom, with the express intention of creating a solid line of pieces in order to clear the space and achieve the highest score possible. Starting off slowly, the more lines you create the faster the pieces begin to drop until, from round about level 10 onwards, you get something that is pretty much uncontrollable to all but the most skilled Tetris Grand Masters.
And from a personal point of view that is roughly the point Tetris becomes more of a frustration than anything else… with the Ultimate version not really doing anything to keep interest high.
There are six game modes included; all of which allow solo play, a versus mode, team versus and everyone’s favourite joint players game choice, co-op. Marathon mode is where you’ll no doubt start your progress and brings about the sole aim of reaching Level 15 whilst acquiring as many points as possible along the way. It’s easy to pick up but also pretty easy to put down as it does nothing other than give you a Tetris hit in the most simplistic of forms. Other than unlocking a new mode, that of ‘Endless’, it doesn’t really do an awful lot to keep you wanting to go back to play it over and over again. The same of which can be said for the ‘Sprint’ mode. Requiring you to remove 40 lines of Tetriminos as fast as you can, the only real test is if you fancy taking time out to beat a previous total. Thankfully, if you are after a real quick blast of drop blocking beats, then ‘Ultra’ gives you three minutes to score as highly as you can. It’s possibly the best mode there for a bit of solo play and is an ideal way to kill a few minutes. But frankly not much more.
However, by far the most enjoyable mode of them all in Tetris Ultimate is that of Battle, with Battle Ultimate trumping its smaller less exciting brother. Taking 2-4 players up against each other, the Ultimate version brings block enhancements into play, with you being able to ‘attack’ your opponents boards with various power-ups. They can quickly turn a game on its head and so even when all hope is lost, a quick throw of the carousel power up or getting it to rain blocks on your opponents space can get you right back into the game.
If you’d rather play alongside a friend as opposed to against them then the co-op variations of each game mode are fairly entertaining. Spreading the usual game space by double, triple or quadruple its normal size, there is absolutely no way on this earth that you’ll be able to succeed unless both you and your cooperative partners are on the ball. It does however work rather well and although co-op isn’t available over Xbox Live, the local version is more than worthy of a spot. If you don’t have a friend nearby, then the inclusion of differing levels of Tetribots allow you to grab some cooperative (and indeed versus) action alone. I’d love to hear from anyone who has managed to hold their own against any of these automated opponents though from where I’m sitting whilst the Apprentice Tetribot is a toughie, going up against the Master one is like watching a Tetris magician at work.
Hidden away in the clunky menus is also an option to go up against the world in all game modes with Tetris Live. As previously mentioned, co-op isn’t available but all versus matches are. Whether you’ll bother with them though is another matter as not only is it a bit of a struggle to find a game through the matchmaking system (I’m not exactly thrilled to spend 30 minutes or so waiting to play a 3 minute match on Ultra), but the complete lack of competitive edge raises its ugly head as once a game is over and the winner/loser has been decided, all is seemingly forgotten with the choice between a rematch or jumping back to the main menu your only options.
Each and every game you play and each and every line you clear is kindly tracked with the inclusion of ‘badges’ and ‘awards’ giving those stat hungry gamers who are lovers of gamerscore something to go after. Expect a bit of a grind though because whilst the first few badges will unlock quite happily, having to clear 25,000 lines of those damn blocks may just give you nightmares.
Thankfully, a number of customisable options are in place so you can, in effect, get the game playing how you like. Yes, it’ll always be ‘Tetris’ but the option to include Ghost pieces, switch off the rotation and completely mess around with the speed of the drop are good ones. You’ll no doubt settle for the default options for when you’re spending the odd five minutes alone with the pieces but for when you’ve got a mate round and fancy putting a little bit of a twist into the action, the numerous options are nice to have.
In fact, it’s probably only when you have a mate round that Tetris Ultimate becomes anything like a bit of fun. Perhaps it’s due to me having had my fill of Tetris products over the years, but being as honest as I can, there isn’t an awful lot included that wants to make me go back and play it any more.
And that I’m afraid is going to be the problem for many. Tetris is Tetris is Tetris and unless you’re a hardcore fan, the Ultimate edition won’t bring too much new to the party, especially if you’ve already got it on numerous other formats
Ultimate by name. Not really ultimate by nature.