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The Next Tetris: Online Edition

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Crave
Developer: Bullet Proof Software
Media: GD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

I sincerely hope that you're not expecting a mind-blowing graphics fest when you boot the newest version of Tetris. And, while it's certainly nice-looking, The Next Tetris: Online Edition certainly won't knock your socks off in the graphics department. Then again, just how do you make Tetris look all that much better than it did when our good man Pajitnov made it so many years ago?

To be honest, there are some graphical improvements. The pieces are true 3D, and you can see them shift as they fall down into the bin. And the background has a neat industrial thing going on that is minimally distracting yet pretty cool nonetheless. And when you're playing in multiplayer mode and your opponent does a good combo, your screen starts to spin around like nobody's business. It's distracting as all hell (which it's supposed to be, mind you), and it's definitely something that couldn't be done in the previous generations of Tetris.

But, in the end, it still looks like Tetris.

The music in the game is pure techno, with a remix of an old Tetris favourite here and there. I found it to be particularly suitable -- most of the time, generic techno is either distracting or useless in video games. In TNT, however, that sort of thumping techno tune is precisely what you need to help get you into the groove. Well, that or Russian-style music. There's not much in the way of sound effects in this game -- there are effects when you clear lines, etc., but nothing that will particularly impress you. Of course, as a puzzle game, you really shouldn't expect Dolby 5.1 SurroundSound with THX certification. All of that cruft is really there just to help you focus on one thing.


Gameplay:

And, as you should have been able to guess, The Next Tetris is all about gameplay. While it won't make you rethink any ideas you have about Tetris in general, and while it doesn't offer quite as much 'stuff' as I would have liked, The Next Tetris: Online Edition is nonetheless a solid version of the game.

The main attraction to TNT are the new rules that the game offers. Unlike most previous versions of Tetris, blocks can now be composed of different colours. These colours can stick to each other if they are the same, or slide down if they are different. It's a simple addition -- one that becomes intuitive as soon as you start playing the game -- but it can change the dynamics entirely. No longer do things progress one line at a time as you complete lines. Now things may fall all the way down holes because they don't 'stick', setting off crazy chain reactions that you only dreamt of in the original Tetris.

Instead of just letting you play around in a bin like old Tetris, TNT forces you to complete a goal for each level -- clearing a certain amount of trash that starts in the bin. This is in every Next Tetris game mode. While it's certainly a nice feature, I really do wish that the menus had a 'Standard Next Tetris' mode, where it's just you versus the bin a la old-school Tetris.

The two main single-player modes are Standard and Marathon. In Standard mode, you're given five minutes to clear three bins. The amount that the bins are filled depends on your Rank, which goes up every time you succeed in this game. As the bin fills up, the game gets more challenging. The Marathon mode has you going through a sequence of more and more cluttered bins, seeing how long you can last.

The two-player mode, and perhaps the main attraction of the game, uses the ranking system as well. The higher your rank, the more trash on the screen. This serves as an equalizer for when you're playing against a newbie -- the ranks tend to move towards a certain centre, and after a few rounds it becomes roughly 50/50 as to who will win. I wish that the difficulties were a little more granular, as sometimes the jump between two levels is scarily high. But those are all minor gripes.

There's also a Classic Tetris mode, which lets you play old-school Tetris. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to support two-player mode. Ah, well.

The Internet capabilities of TNT: Online Edition are nice, but in the end almost superfluous. There's something to be said about playing Tetris lag-free over the Internet, but in the end it's always a lot more fun to have someone in the same room as you playing it. It's certainly a nice feature, and one I wouldn't want them to not have, but it's not the reason to get this game.


Difficulty:

In competitive games like this, the difficulty entirely depends on the capabilities of your opponents. Good ones can decimate you in a blink of the eye; bad ones get decimated much the same. You can practice all you like in single-player mode (and you should -- it requires a lot of getting used to before you can competently use the colours to your advantage), but the real test is in two-player mode.

Game Mechanics:

Er, you move the pieces, and you set them where you like. There's not exactly a complex play mechanic here, and it's executed superbly. I never felt like I was out of control of the blocks or what was happenning. Indeed, the game lets you do some crazy rotation things like the Gameboy Tetris did, which can make for some amazingly tight fits. The menus, austere and metallic, certainly get the job done.

If you've played Tetris before, you have a good idea of what you'll see in The Next Tetris: Online Edition. The new rules are nice, as is the multiplayer, but a lot of people will see it as 'just another Tetris clone.' The lack of tons of play modes also hurts the game. But for those of us who adore puzzle games, you really can't go wrong with The Next Tetris.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Sega Dreamcast The Grinch Sega Dreamcast Phantasy Star Online

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated