|Publisher: Blue Planet Software Genre: Arcade|
|Min OS X: 10.3 RAM: 256 MB Hard Disk: 50 MB Graphics: 32 MB VRAM|
Have you heard of Tetris? Created by Russian computer programmer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984, Tetris is a game based on falling pentominos, shapes consisting of connected blocks. Pajitnov's game uses four blocks to create different shapes, hence the name is based on the Greek numerial prefix for the number "four" which is "tetra". Pajitnov moved to the U.S. in 1991 co-founding The Tetris Company. Microsoft employed Pajitnov from 1996-2005. His forte is puzzle games including the enchanced version of Hexic HD included with the Xbox 360 Premium package.
Enough of the history lessons. Really it's my cover for the shortest game review of all time. Not that there is a problem with Tetris Zone, but to sum it up... it's Tetris! And come on, you must know about Tetris. It's fun, it's challenging, and it's great for exercising the old noggin with a little hand/eye coordination thrown in. More than likely sometime in the last 20 years you played it. My first exposure was on a Super Nintendo console.
Just in case that person in the back of the room is not familiar, there are these falling blocks with different shapes...
The Tetris player must rotate the blocks as they fall so they end up in an optimum position to complete lines. When a line is filled, it disappears allowing all blocks above it to settle towards the bottom of the tray. A typical Tetris game starts slow but accelerates. As you complete levels, blocks fall faster making the game much more demanding until the end, you are flailing trying to keep misplaced blocks from reaching the top of the tray and ending the game.
Tetris Zone was developed and is published by BluePlanet Software. More info about Tetris including a history section can be found at Tetris.com. System requirements are an Intel or PPC based Mac (G3 or better) running MacOS 10.3 or higher, including 256MB RAM and a 32MB video card (hence the good graphics).
Tetris Zone includes two choices of pleasing music and four game modes. Marathon, Challenge, Sprint, and the insane Master mode.
Marathon is a simple mode allowing you to go as far as you can. Challenge allows you to progress as far as possible in ten minutes of game play. Sprint allows you complete 40 lines as fast as you can. And Master mode is only for those incredibly brilliant or undeniably masochistic. In this mode, blocks appear at the bottom of the tray with no falling observed and a split second is allowed to slide the block in place.
Reality ChecksOverall Tetris Zone plays well, no problems and no crashes were noted. Action was smooth and the music pleasant to listen too. Preferences allow a choice of music and the remapping of keys.
I don't like having to log-in online to play. I assume this is for some kind of copy protection, but don't think it is warranted to play a solo game. It could be argued that this is the wave of the future with onerous schemes like "Steam" in existence on the net, but I tend to resist when it comes to a casual solo gaming. You don't have to maintain an online connection to play, just to log in initially. There are multiplayer version of Tetris on the internet, and this could be a reason to have to log-in but Tetris Zone does not offer a multiplayer mode. And what happens when the log-in server crashes? I don't want to rely on external assets to play my game.
Another non-optional feature are ghost-pieces, an outline of the current in-play block that Tetris Zone uses to show the player where and how that block will fall. The developer says they want to encourage new players, but as an old-school Tetris player I view this as a crutch and desire that this feature be selectable on/off at player discretion. I find that even when I vow not to use it, when the going gets tough I'm looking at the ghost piece, damn my eyes!
At the time this review was submitted for publication, Tetris Zone made use of a compulsory leader board so if you're playing online (with an active connection to the internet), game results were automatically recorded for the world to see how smart or inept you are. This feature should be optional and the developer has indicated it will be optional within weeks. If you are playing off-line (disconnected from the net), no game results are uploaded.
ConclusionTetris Zone is a nice implementation of the Tetris many players love. It needs some adjustments of it's features including a solo, non-login mode of play, but hey I can dream. Critiques aside, the game plays well, it offers the classic Tetris experience and includes some challenging game play modes. Tetris Zone can be downloaded for free and includes a brief demo mode. It falls solidly in the casual gaming category and is a good value at $9.95.
Pros• Classic Tetris experience.
• Nice game-play including several game modes.
• Good graphics and sound.
• Good value.
Cons• Must Log-in to play (Internet connection not required to play after login.)
• Automatic leader board (to be fixed very soon if not all ready).
• No on/off for ghost pieces.
• No multiplayer mode.