PSN Tetris® is Tetris still worth buying
Ever since I received my first generation Gameboy nearly 20 years ago I've been hooked on Tetris. Aside from the original I've also played a hell of a lot of Tetris DX for Gameboy Color (still my favorite) and Tetris DS. Despite owning different versions of Tetris three times over I have no regrets with my purchase of Tetris® for PSN.
The first Tetris on the Gameboy is by far the most difficult. The Gameboy's controls made it hard to quickly move pieces side to side, and on the higher levels those pieces locked to the bottom very quickly. Tetris DX changed things up a bit. The control was tighter because holding left or right made the piece move to the sides very quickly. Also there's a very slight pause before the piece locks to the bottom which doesn't sound like a big deal, but it makes the difference between your game almost instantly ending on the highest levels and your game being able to go on indefinitely. Also the Tetris DX cartridge could save your game when you turned off your Gameboy.
Then came the era brought upon by Tetris Worlds for the PS2. This is when Tetris was " broken" When the piece reached the bottom, so long as you kept on moving or rotating the piece it would never lock. This fundamentally changed the game and introduced the T-spin. Basically, pieces are now free to rotate into previous impossible positions. Since all official releases of Tetris are approved by the same company, this is just how it's going to be from now on.
The new PSN release of Tetris® by EA is this flavor of Tetris. The trailer touts the 1080p graphics, remixed music, and 5.1 surround sound. The graphics are 1080p, but come on, it's Tetris. The most sophisticated graphics are in the constantly moving background that occasionally receives a shockwave when you make good moves. Other than that there are some special effects in multiplayer and some power up abilities. For the most part, the game keeps the graphics pretty simple which I appreciated. There's a very classic look to the game, and in fact there're no ways to customize the look of the tetriminoes. There are a few custom backgrounds to choose from in the options.
My beef with the presentation is that even on a 46" LCD TV, the playing field can get very small during multiplayer because the game shows everyone's play field on screen at the same time. Even though yours is always the largest on screen, it usually feels like there's some screen real estate going to waste. I would've preferred they made your screen even larger, shrink down your opponent's or maybe give customizable layout options. Also, the "next piece" window is at the top of the screen which is not where my eyes naturally gravitate to when playing Tetris. I wasn't ever squinting per se, but I think it would be easier on the eyes.
I don't have a surround sound system, but this Tetris® definitely makes itself heard. The pieces tick and dink with every movement, rotation and line clears almost sound like a sword swipe. The sound effects are very crisp, and don't overstay their welcome. The only issue might be when you add several online opponents and the din of the sound effects from 4-5 players can get pretty crazy. It's almost sure to irritate anyone else in the room with you while you're playing. The volume for music and sound can be adjusted in the options though.
In addition to the regular marathon mode and complete 40 lines mode there are several variants. There are eleven variants in total and they all change the game around in different ways. Some are rather mundane like "Laser" and "Flood" which have the playfield decreasing in size from either the top or bottom. Others like "Gravity" and "Flashlight" don't affect the gameplay too dramatically but still provide a different experience. A few of the variants have the Gravity function where tetriminoes that aren't supported by squares on their sides will plunge down until they hit a solid surface which can be used for big combos if set up correctly.
Surprisingly, the last seven modes all have very interesting twists on Tetris that really require you to spend some time with them so your brain can properly switch modes. Some came easier to me than others, but there's a lot of potential for new ways of scoring, and clearing lines. One has the field constantly shifting to the right with every block you place. Another splits the field in two with pieces alternating the sides that they fall on. One is almost a Tetris Lumines game where lines are only cleared every few lines, and there's one where the two sides of the field act as magnets attracting pieces of their color. Then finally there's a "Radical" mode which is that Tetris where the blocks fall instantly. This version of Tetris you might know from this Youtube clip of a crazy Japanese Tetris player. I'm very interested in spending some more time with this one.
The game keeps track of all your stats and there are online leaderboards (they require a free EA account and you need to sign in every time you boot up the game). There are also replays for the top players on each variant. If you want to have an ongoing competition with your friends either locally or online you can use the challenge mode which will show your friend's game alongside yours as you try to beat their score.
In addition to PSN trophies there are also in game achievements which are referred to as "Feats." The game keeps pretty good track of your progression, but some like the "100% Completion" could've been documented better. Part of fulfilling that particular achievement involved beating all variants on level 15 and I found myself forgetting which modes I had already beat. If you're a very good Tetris player it won't take too long to get all the feats, and some of them will force you to change up your game and learn some new skills.
The best thing about the game is its both local and online multiplayer. You can compete for clear times against others in any of the variants or try out some of the battle modes. Straight battle is for 2-4 players which is the Tetris multiplayer we all know and love. The screen shows a target icon on your opponents so you know who will receive the junk blocks when you clear your lines. Battle can be played with or without powerups (the person who starts the session determines this). Powerups can be things like earthquakes which help you remove pieces or frozen, flashlight or treadmill modes which mess up your opponents. The games are short because after two minutes, a sudden death mode starts where the screens start shrinking from the bottom.
There's also a 2-5 player Timed Battle mode where within 2 minutes you try to "knock down" your opponent multiple times by making their pieces go over the top. This mode makes the target more important because knock downs count for more points than simply playing well. The more you win online the more "rank points" you get and these level up your skill level. It's similar to how Tetris DS had a number assigned to your skill, but it's nice to have a progress bar and also nice sound effects when you level up. You gain and lose points based on your performance in each game. After each game you can check the leaderboards to see where your position.The matchup system isn't perfect or even the same between game modes. "Timed battle mode" matches random people up for every game and seems to be good about putting together people who are about the same level. Regular "Battle" mode though matches up whomever is looking to play, and after each game they return to the same lobby where they can choose to rematch. This means if you're a good player and you find several other people who aren't as good as you, you can keep grinding wins out of them provided they stay in the lobby. For some reason, Timed battle mode allows people to choose the number of opponents they'd like, but in regular Battle mode it's random whether there will be two, three or four people you're up against. ,The leaderboards can be filtered to be U.S. only or Global. In some modes my rank was around 50 for the U.S. but in the 300s globally O_O
There're also a couple ways to play cooperative multiplayer. One is a mode where you share a field with a friend, but the two sides only overlap in the two square column in the middle. You can swap pieces between each other, but this sort of mode would take a lot of communication and probably work best locally. Team Battle mode has each of you playing as either attacker or defender. Attacker sends out junk blocks and defender removes any sent your way. If you want, you can both be attackers, but you won't be able to remove junk blocks.
If there's anything else I think this game could've improved on are the tutorials. There are game tips in between loading screens, but there's no tutorial mode where mechanics of the new variants are clearly explained. Also, even though the game keeps track of all T-spins, there's really no way for people to learn how to do this without going online. The Help section in the options is mostly just very slowly scrolling text. The glossary of terms takes a long time to scroll through using the trigger buttons. More could've been done to help people improve their Tetris game.
I've already enjoyed several hours of Tetris® and I think it was a good purchase at $9.99 but I have some gripes which mostly stem from the Tetris purist in me. For starters, marathon mode ends at level 15 and then you're done. That's it. This has been the case since Tetris DS, but the marathon mode which goes on indefinitely is totally gone, and this irritates me because I enjoyed being able to rack up crazy scores on Tetris. I would love if someday there was a version of Tetris which has all the previous iterations of Tetris because they play very differently even if the differences might be too subtle for the less hardcore Tetris players. "Broken Tetris" isn't my favorite and I think even if I was good at T-spins it still wouldn't be. But things like this and a finite marathon mode just rub me the wrong way.
Overall, PSN Tetris® (Yes, overtime the word appears in the game it's followed by either a "®" or "™") is a good value and definitely worth it if you're into competitive Tetris. Just make sure you have a decently sized TV. I never had any problems finding games to play with people online, and in some cases matches were found almost instantly. The other thing I like about this version is that tthe Dual Shock controller is the best feeling control I've probably ever had from a Tetris game with the GBA SP being the second best. If you're a die hard Tetris fan like me, you won't be disappointed.