Like a fine wine, Frank Sinatra records and Will Smith, some things in life just get better with age.
Tetris. Everyone has played it. EVERYONE. My Mum bought herself a DS just to play Tetris – well, and Brain Training but she spent far more time on the classic puzzler. A version of Tetris has been available on damn-near every single console release, including the rather underrated Tetrisphere on N64 – if you don’t know it, find it. It’s brilliant.
So here we are, in 2015. What have I been doing? Well, on my next-generation uncompromisingly brilliant powerhouse that is the Playstation 4, I’ve been playing Tetris. Not The Last of Us. Not The Order. Not InFamous, TETRIS. Am I proud of this? Should I be making more worthy decisions with my gaming time? Is there really anyhing else than can compare? It’s Tetris, so…in terms of Tetris Ultimate, no. There isn’t.
It’s hard to really review a game that you already know so much about. It’s timeless in its gameplay, the core mechanics haven’t really changed throughout the games enormous history (the original being released in 1984). Is that the best compliment we can offer? Most certainly. The original Tetris is widely-regarded as one of the greatest games of all time. What needs to change?
Enjoy our PSGamer Does…Tetris Ultimate Let’s Play video.
Note* – You’ll notice in the video our opinion of the online aspect of this game differs to the one in the article further down. This video was recorded before online went to hell in a handbasket, and as such reflects a (single) session that went rather well. Also, sorry for the sniff.
If you DON’T know Tetris, allow me to sum it up in a single paragraph for you. Tetriminoes are the game pieces shaped like tetrominoes, geometric shapes comprised of four square blocks. A random sequence of these shapes will fall down your game area (or Matrix) and it’s up to you to fit them together in order to create lines across the screen, manipulating them to ensure they can fit correctly into open spaces between your other Tetriminoes. When a line is created, the line will disappear, and any blocks above them will fall to the bottom. After a certain number of new lines are created you will move up a level, which means the Tetriminoes will fall faster. The game ends when you reach the top of the Matrix and you can no longer make any lines.
That’s Tetris. It’s never changed and it never will (hopefully). And with Tetris Ultimate, the gameplay remains unchanged and whilst Tetris Ultimate is more or less a carbon copy of the Playstation 3 version, there’s still plenty to enjoy, with a fair few misgivings.
Marathon is classic Tetris. You just keep on going until you can’t go any longer and see how many lines you clear (well, it stops at Level 15). It’s the game in its most basic form, with the useful ‘Hold’ feature that’s standard across all modes a handy addition (Hold lets you save the piece that’s dropping to use for later, or remove it out of the game if you don’t have a space for it at that moment). Infinite mode eliminates the Level 15 block and allows to play until your fingers turn to bone and your eyes have fallen out of your head. Sprint challenges you to clear 40 lines as quick as you possibly can, leading to Ultra, challenging you to complete as many lines and get the highest score you can in three solid minutes (harder than it sounds). The best mode though is Battle, which enables you to play with friends (or with their Tetris Self, an AI counterpart that plays to their apparent skill level) and knock each other out of the game by sending your eliminated lines to their screens, ergo forcing them higher and higher up the board. Then there’s Final Battle, where along with throwing lines to other peoples screens you can use power-ups to mess with their Matrix even more, including throwing in trash to get them to sort out. Battle is undoubtedly the highlight of the package, especially in local play when it just goes nuts between you and your friends. I highly recommend playing this in local play over online multiplayer at the moment. Purely because..well.
Online is balls.
It’s hard to comprehend how you can get Tetris wrong in 2015, and as I’ve mentioned, for the most part Tetris Ultimate is great fun. Online though, it’s a different story. You can play every mode in the game online, but it’s annoyingly difficult to get it to run smoothly. Framerate pops, bad collision detection, connection losses and more made it impossible for me to really give the game a fair whack online. It’s a broken mess that looks like it probably won’t get fixed anytime soon. Now the game has landed on new-gen in the UK I was hoping that the online portion would have been taken care of. It seems my cries fell on deaf ears, as it’s a collective hellhole of uncompromising despair that I loathe for effectively forcing me to knock down the review score lower than I had originally intended. Offline there are no real complaints. It’s Tetris and what it does it does really well. Online, it’s flabbergastingly bad.
I say no real complaints. Visually, it does look nice but it’s sparse and basic. The menus are simple to navigate but don’t look all that. Whilst you’re playing the background is dull and lacks any real imagination, although this may be due to the fact you barely take your eyes off your Matrix once you’re in the middle of playing. The music is just bloody odd. Very etheral and serious, when it should be far more bouncy to correlate with the frantic gameplay. Instead it feels like you’re in some weird earthy museum, learning about the history of a star.
So, no it’s not perfect, but it’s Tetris at the very core. It’s untouchable in that regard, still the best puzzle game in the world and for that yes it comes recommended.
Just treat it old-school. Local play with your friends is a blast and we’ve had some damn good games leading up to this review. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time playing Tetris Ultimate as a local multiplayer. Online, it’s a broken, shoddy disaster.
Still, go into Tetris Ultimate wanting to play Tetris either single player or with mates on your sofa, and you’ll have a blast. Because it’s Tetris.
We reviewed the PS4 version of Tetris Ultimate.
In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game from the PSN Store.