Tetris Plus

Tetris Plus
2.5
Game Name: Tetris Plus
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): Jaleco
Developer(s): Jaleco
Genre(s): Puzzle
Release Date: October 1996
Serial Number: T-5704H-50
Region: PAL

Tetris Plus Screenshot

The thing about Tetris is that it looks like a very simple game – all developers and game designers must have asked themselves over the years why they can’t think up such a simple game themselves.

The truth of course is that they probably won’t because it is NOT a simple game – it is the result of a piece of inspiration that hit someone who had been steeped in puzzle games all of his life.
Alexey Pajitnov hasn’t hit gold since and is on a nice retainer from Microsoft just in case he does – in all liklihood he won’t though.

Tetris is derived from a puzzle game called Pentominoes – in which you must fill a rectangular frame with a set of different shapes leaving no gaps. Pajitnov’s inspiration was to take the set of shapes and simplify them (to shapes called tetrads – hence the game name) , introduce the shapes one by one into the box (now sitting up on one end) falling under simulated gravity, and then the real stroke of genius – removing complete lines – making space for more shapes.

Tetris Plus ScreenshotThis created a puzzle that couldn’t really be made from physical material the way the original pentominoes was and thus created the first true video puzzle game which up until then had mostly been just recreations of physical puzzles like mazes or board games like chess. A new genre was born.

There are 2 things about Tetris that are not obvious – the first is that it isn’t easy to actually create a good version of Tetris. Many have tried and not too many have suceeded.
The other thing to remember is that it is difficult to try and add features to it in order to improve it in any way – really difficult. Think about how many so called “super” Tetris variants there are and think about how many there are that are as good as the original.

Apart from the odd feature that really only tweaks the game (The N64’s New Tetris successfully introduces some gentle changes), noone has successfully produced a good Tetris variant – and Tetris Plus is another example of this failure. What it does is OK, and it is genuinely trying something new which is to be applauded, but it just isn’t as good a game as the original.

Tetris Plus ScreenshotIt also trips up because it doesn’t manage to deliver a good original game. There is a classic mode but the control is a bit sticky and it doesn’t feel right – and you don’t get a straight Tetris 2 player battle mode either which was always the saving grace of any title that attempted to improve the plain game. Two players can play classic Tetris side by side but there is no “battle” element – they just play their own game.

You do get a 2 player battle mode of Tetris Plus though which again is just OK.

Tetris Plus is played in a classic Tetris pit but there is a little character – depicted as an explorer – inside the pit who will try and climb up or down the blocks.
He can only climb up one block at a time so if he is faced with a climb of 2 or more blocks he turns around and walks in the opposite direction.
The aim of each level is to guide him to the bottom of the Tetris pit.

Tetris Plus Screenshot

To add to the difficulty there is a spiked roof that is gradually dropping down as you play. If the explorer touches this you lose. You can’t lose by overflowing the pit as in classic Tetris, the spiked roof will chop any blocks that it touches – you only lose when the explorer hits the spiked roof.

This actually sounds quite good – and to be fair it is a nice variant on the game. There is even a level editor for creating your own layouts to try and beat, but the problem is it just doesn’t play as good as it sounds. The 2 player battle mode plays this game in two pits and its an entertaining enough game but nothing special.

The graphics are nice and clean – but are distinctly 16bit. I like the cartoonish look of everything and it isn’t for everyone. Sounds and tunes won’t offend – pretty forgettable which is no bad thing in a puzzle game but music can really add to puzzle games so its a bit of a shame. Again N64’s New Tetris had great music by Neil Voss that really added to the game.

The main problem with the game is the control though – it doesn’t feel right and feels a bit stiff – but it is perfectly playable – its just that it doesn’t feel as good as the great versions of Tetris.

It is getting hard to find a good plain version of Tetris nowadays and if that is what you are looking for you won’t find it here. Worth getting cheap if you are looking for a decent variant though.

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Tetris Plus, 3.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating