Sega Dreamcast
Sega Saturn
Sega Genesis
Grey Matter
About dEX
The Creator

Sega Saturn

Specs Release Dates Codes Now Available Reviews Snapshots

Tetris Plus - Jaleco

by Brian Kennedy(


    I've played many many versions of Tetris, beginning with the arcade game, then countless computer versions (but never the Amiga version, which I hear was great), the NES version, gameboy version, etc., as well as the many Tetris spin-offs and rip-offs. I'm sure most of you have the same experience. I love Tetris and feel that it is one of the finest, purest, most addictive computer games ever invented. I am very good at the game, and love to play against someone else who is also very good.

So I'm a Tetris die-hard. That said, I was disappointed by Tetris Plus. I would only recommend this game to those of you who, like me, *have* to have a Tetris game on your consoles. IMO the NES version is much better, and if I still had an NES, I would stick with that.

The game begins with a cartoony slide show tale of a professor and his assistant who go off to explore the ancient ruins of the world. This sets up the Puzzle Mode game and explains the ancient Egypt theme of the background screens. Of course, you'll skip this intro stuff by the second time you play the game.

Next, you're treated to a "main menu"-type screen, from which you can choose your mode of play: Classic, Puzzle, or Edit. You can also go to the Options screen and adjust which button presses rotate which direction (though those of us "old style" players only rotate clockwise), adjust the difficulty level (easy, normal, hard, very hard), the number of matches in a 2-player vs. match, BGM/SE level, and console or arcade-style music (I think the difference is that the console music is streamed from the CD. It still sounds very computer game-ish, though. This is no WipeOut soundtrack!).

The Classic Mode game is the same old Tetris most of us know. BTW, it's the "A-type" (as opposed to "B-type") game of Tetris on the NES/Gameboy versions. You begin with a blank playing area.

The first thing you'll notice is the screen is *tiny*. The one-player game is played on the same screen as the two-player vs. game. The playing area is only on the left half of the screen. Moreover, the game area itself only takes up about 2/3 of that half. It is very narrow. So you have very small pieces. This is not good, and made me nostalgic for the large blocks of NES Tetris.

The narrow playing area gave me some trouble at first. It's a bit difficult at first to tell exactly where your piece will drop. I'd often make the rookie mistake of pulling down a piece, already thinking of my next move, only to find that I'd dropped the first piece one block away from where I thought I had. This was very frustrating, but you eventually get used to it, and I don't make that mistake nearly so often any more. Likewise, the control seems a little sluggish at first, but that may be because I have been playing a ridiculously-tight-controlling computer version lately. Still, my thumb gets very tired playing this game, since, to get a piece to move quickly across the screen, you need to rapidly press the d-pad. Holding down a direction won't move nearly fast enough. The control could be improved by lessening the length of the pause after the initial d-pad button press.

The second thing you'll notice is that the "next piece" area is at the top of the screen, where the pieces come out. There are actually the next *two* pieces shown, the second smaller than the first. While this is helpful, there is no option to show only the next piece (which would be truer to the original version) or to not show any next piece altogether. Also, placing the next piece on the top of the screen rather than the side is distracting when the game is moving *very* quickly, and you only have a split second to glance back and forth between the next piece and the blocks on the bottom. Since the play area is so narrow, there is room on the side for the next piece, but, unfortunately, it's wasted space.

Next, you'll complete a line and hear a male voice say emphatically, "Single!" The screen will show the word "SINGLE" and you'll hear neat SE noises. Hmmm... not sure how much I like this. Then the guy will say "Double!" or "Triple!" or "TETRISSSSSS!!!", accompanied by the appropriate sound effects and flashes. I didn't really like it at first (the flashes on the blocks you clear partially obscure what is left behind for a brief second!), but I've gotten more used to it. Still, hearing the guy say "Awww, NO!" when you lose is very, very annoying. There is no option to turn off the voice.

Finally, you'll note that the level (stage) change is different than most other versions of Tetris. It depends both on time and on how many lines you complete. A gauge runs up both sides of the play area at a constant rate, and you go to the next level when it hits the top (and starts from the bottom again). When you complete lines, the gauge jumps up a certain distance, depending on the number of lines you complete, then moves again at the constant rate. This is a pretty neat way to do this, and I like it, though the level change is a bit strange in that the pieces do not always drop progressively faster. Every few stages, the pace slows up, then begins speeding up again. This is okay, but I can never figure out *when* the pace will slow (and the manual doesn't help here -- the manual completely bites, BTW), which would really help. I would also prefer an option to have the levels change like they do in most other Tetris games (i.e., level 2 at 20 lines, 3 at 30 lines, etc.).

BOTTOM LINE ON CLASSIC MODE: This is the mode you'll probably play the most (well, along with the two-player mode). It's Tetris, all right, not some clone or Tetris spin-off (woo-hoo!). But it has many flaws, and these just about kill the game (d-ohh!).

The Puzzle Mode is what the intro has set up. The story is about a professor and his assistant searching ancient ruins. You begin by choosing from four locations (Angkor Wat, Egypt, Knossos, Maya) on a world map, which amount to four sets of puzzles (maybe 20 levels each? can't remember). I think the locations determine only the background graphics and the level of difficulty of the puzzles.

The object in Puzzle Mode is to get the professor (a little guy about the size of a 2x2 square block) to the bottom of the screen. The guy stands on top of the blocks, and climbs up the back of blocks that you drop on him. He also moves from side to side, looking for a way down. In the meantime, the ceiling drops slowly, and you lose when the professor touches the ceiling. A triple or Tetris will make the ceiling move back up a bit.

After completing some puzzles, the professor will open a treasure chest at the bottom, revealing some bonus points. Pretty lame, IMO. But it is interesting, and I've never seen this type of puzzle before. However, I personally prefer the simpler "B-type" puzzle of Gameboy or NES (or countless other versions), where you begin with a certain level of random blocks on the screen.

BOTTOM LINE ON PUZZLE MODE: Interesting, but not enough to get excited about.

The computer saves your best times on each of the Puzzle levels, as well as your top five scores for both Classic and Puzzle Modes. The top three of these includes the number of lines completed or levels cleared, respectively, for each mode.

Finally, the Edit Mode allows you to create and play up to ten Puzzle Mode-type screens. This mode is very well done. You have a series of buttons at the top of the screen which allow you to load/save a puzzle, clear all blocks, change the background graphic, place and remove blocks, choose where the professor enters the screen, set the initial height of the ceiling, change the order of play for your puzzles, and test your puzzle during creation.

The whole editing setup is very intuitive and easy to use. The only gripe I have is that there are only eight selectable backgrounds (and ten slots to save created puzzles!). So you'll have to repeat some backgrounds. This is ludicrous, IMO. The CD should have *hundreds* of background images available. The images themselves are extremely boring, too. Not the photo-quality backgrounds from many PC versions, but more cartoony "ruins" theme backgrounds (e.g., Sphinx, columns, hieroglyphics, etc. -- all pretty boring and all very brown).

BOTTOM LINE ON EDIT MODE: Nice feature, but it's still the thing with the professor. I wish you could just do your own backgrounds and play regular Tetris starting with the setup you've created.

TWO-PLAYER GAME: Have not played, but it appears to include the dropping ceiling. :( You *CANNOT* play one player versus the computer.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Only for Tetris die-hards. Even then, you'll ask yourself why this game cost you so much money.

Graphics: 4

Sound/Music: 5

Gameplay: 7

Lasting Power: 7

Overall: 6

- Brian Kennedy

All products are trademarks of their respective companies.

Questions or comments? Contact dEX.