Game Description: Go beyond all preconceived notions of the mind-boggling puzzle classic, as you take on all-new challenges in fresh environments. The aim is the same: place the falling shapes into lines, leaving as few gaps as possible. Once you complete a line, it disappears, giving you more space in which to operate. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a newcomer to the fabled Tetris series, you’ll appreciate the improved modes of play. With seven innovative environments and all sorts of new options and scoring possibilities, this is truly the next generation of Tetris.
We, as humans, seem to have an insatiable appetite for the familiar. It instills in us a sense of trust, if you will. And once we get hold of a hot commodity, whether it's a movie, a book, or a game, we want to recapture that experience again and again. Not surprisingly, the producers of that product are more than happy to oblige. I'm sure we're all familiar with the movie, Halloween. Fans were so thrilled with this movie that they demanded a sequels after sequels; the producers gleefully responded. The thing is, though, no matter how hard they tried, the producers and writers could never recapture the thrill of the first. As cheap copies go, only the superficial gets carried over and the substance is lost somewhere in the process. Halloween fans, consequently, got stuck with a bunch of corny bloodfests that lacked personality and appeal. On top of that, other creators flooded the market with rip-off after rip-off. It got so bad that these releases resembled comedies more than they did, fright flicks. None offered anything new and few actually even tried. Freddy Kreuger's torment over the people on Elm Street and Jason Vorhees' hacking of camp counselors had finally lost their edge. The industry was on a fatal downturn and franchises bottomed out due to lack of innovation. It was not until very recently that the horror genre received a breath of fresh air thanks to movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. The creator of the Halloween series took notice of the new resurgence and decided that Halloween could be given a chance to go out on a high note. Whether it was a final tribute to fans or a finale to the series, it received a lot of hype and praise from the press, but fans, old and new, didn't quite take to it. And in our case, I see that Nintendo has hit upon that same line of thinking and brought out a new Tetris onto a market already saturated with Tetris clones.
Although John Carpenter's Halloween was originally taken on as a gamble by Compass International Pictures, when Nintendo first saw Alexey Pajitnov's Tetris, they knew that it would be big and had to be part of their plan for total industry domination. So sure were they of its future success that Nintendo's CEO, Howard Lincoln, and President, Minoru Arakawa, rushed off to Russia in the middle of the night (in their pajamas no less) to seal the deal and make Tetris exclusive to their NES console. They pretty much lied, cheated, and stole to get it, but it paid off big-time and Tetris became one of the biggest successes in the history of video gaming. Since then, there has been no end to the different incarnations of the Tetris theme. Countless sequels, remakes, and clones were released on every major video game system. The number of lackluster releases and out-and-out failures inevitably eclipsed the successes in the market; soon, no company, even Nintendo, would risk saturating the market further. That is, until now. Nintendo and H2O believe that they have found a new trick to teach the old Tetris engine that would take the theme and genre in a refreshingly new direction.
After all its different incarnations, Nintendo apparently felt Tetris needed a face-lift as much as Leatherface does. The New Tetris, as it's called, is probably the biggest conceptual departure from the original Tetris theme that any "Tetris" game has gotten. Since it's inception, Tetris has been about clearing the most lines and getting the highest numerical score to see who is the best. In The New Tetris, a high score is still desirable, but it is tallied differently; the actual number of lines cleared are the focus and not points given for each, as in the original. The rewards here are also new. The first is an actual ranking, depending on my durability with each game I play. The other is a more flashy addition that really doesn't work too well. With every set number of lines cleared, I could unlock hidden landmarks (called Wonders) which are essentially new stages to play on. These are historical monuments that are revealed to me and credited to my overall record and saved on the game pak. What could have drove H2O to think that seeing a Sphinx statue materialize before my eyes was rewarding enough for me to bust my butt for hours trying to complete the required 4000+ lines? This has to be one of the most unrewarding experiences I've encountered anywhere since Friday The 13th, Part X.
The additions don't stop there. Like a new coat of paint, a new objective has been added to broaden the depth of Tetris. It is now possible to build a solid square using four puzzle pieces and if you used four identical pieces, the number of lines you clear would be accredited exponentially. This new focus made the old objective of clearing four lines and getting a Tetris seem a little frivolous. I missed the familiar ringing sound effect I would previously have heard from getting a Tetris. It signified to me that I had done something special. Throughout the game, building and clearing Tetris' have been globally toned down. What H2O did keep, though, was what worked in previous incarnations and that's the multiplayer mode. Here I could take on up to three of my buddies and go at it for some seriously fast-paced action. And with the new ranking system, determining who was the best was far more obvious. It was definitely a plus amid all the negatives.
It is with almost perfect irony that H2O, the gimmick name used for the last Halloween movie's ad campaign, is also the name of the developer Nintendo chose for this game. Because when the final curtain went down on the flick, it only served to prove that Michael Myers wasn't scary anymore, Jamie Lee Curtis (while still hot after all these years) was still no fighter, and that it would take a whole lot more than a couple of teen-idols (from romps like Dawson's Creek) to breathe new life into the franchise. The New Tetris suffers a similar fate by not including involving goals on top of the new play mechanics and by failing to set any new standards. So in both cases, the movie and the game, I wasn't impressed.
Shifting the focus over to building world wonders with lines accrued makes The New Tetris the first Tetris in the franchise to reach 'biblical' proportions. Why 'biblical'? Because the sheer amount of effort it takes to build one of these mammoths made me feel like I actually was a slave in Egypt! I agree with Dale that it's a huge misstep and the feature should have been implemented less painfully.
Still, I didn't find The New Tetris to be the horror show that Dale likened it to. Credit the inclusion of the square-building aspect. While most 10-year olds in a fragfest would have me begging for mercy faster than Justin Volpe on trial, I'd say my Tetris skills are comparable to anyone in this planet. My affair with the shapely demons is a bond that I've harnessed through years of countless lines and endless scores; resulting in an unsurpassed technique (which I've named the Four Lines of Death style). Yet, even with all my bravado, The New Tetris made me do what Bruce Lee did after failing to pummel an opponent in seconds (he took a couple of minutes instead!): I had to rethink my style.
Constructing a solid square out of the familiar Tetris pieces sounds simple enough, but trying to orchestrate the consistent production of them while in the midst of play proved to be a truly challenging objective (especially mono-squares built with identical shapes). Pretty soon, I was adjusting the old tactics I've loyally used for years and scheming up new ones in the vein of Jeet Kune Do mantra: "Absorbing what is useful and discarding what is not." My best technique thus far: L-shapes and blocks to the left side, three-quarters pluses and s-shapes to the right, leaving a sliver of space between the two monoliths for the money-piece, the stick.
Make no mistake that this game has its drawbacks and is far from being the definitive Tetris for years to come. Only the most extreme and diehard fanatics devoted to the art of Tetris (like myself) will appreciate the unique challenge that The New Tetris presents. The multiplayer mode in The New Tetris could be a goldmine for casual players who assemble on a frequent basis. Otherwise, it's going to take a lot of love and blind devotion to ignore all the negatives before getting to the positives. But then again, if compiling an excruciating amount of lines for the sake of building world wonders doesn't sound like slave labor to you, this may be the Tetris you've been waiting for.
Bottom line, there is no reason to buy this game if you own a previous version of Tetris (or 3 or more like Chi and I do). The New Tetris tries to offer something new with the focus on forming squares, but it could be too much of a departure from the norm for Tetris veterans.
First-time or casual Tetris fans, however, would be more open to this addition and the multiplayer mode would be quite enjoyable for any player. The focus on accumulating lines to unlock new locations has its appeal but it's an acquired taste and I strongly suggesting renting this game first.