PSN Review – Tetris

January 14, 2011 Written by Corey Schwanz

It’s Tetris. Everyone has played it in one form or another over the last twenty years. You’d think that yet another re-release of the game would be just another rehash of what you’ve already played. So what makes the PSN version of Tetris so much different?

If you don’t know Tetris, here’s a summary. You have seven different permutations of blocks with four different pieces. You place them down in straight lines to clear your board, and the blocks, Tetraminos, fall progressively faster. If you mess up and don’t clear the lines, your playing area gets smaller and smaller until the screen fills up with your mistakes. If you’re especially skilled you can make solid lines and clear four at once to achieve maximum points in what’s called a Tetris. That’s about it. The formula hasn’t changed since it launched on the NES (or various PC forms if you want to go earlier). So if we’ve all played it, why should you get it again?

Tetris has stayed classic for a reason: its tried and true gameplay never creates a clear winner, but challenges you to try and best your high score. It is as addicting as ever in this new version, and the beautiful crisp graphics (in 1080p no less) give great detail. The music has also stayed catchy with a synth, almost poppy version of the traditional Tetris theme that gloriously caresses your earholes in 5.1 surround sound. Not a fan? No problem, for you can just put on your own custom tunes. But you’ll be missing out on an exciting audio aspect. When you get closer to the top of your screen, the music changes from the happy Russian folk tune to a heart-pounding anxiety-inducing song that will drive you crazy. It’s just another one of those small features, but it greatly enhances the game experience.

The single-player also has a multitude of modes for you to play around in. In fact, they are incredibly similar (if not exactly the same) to the PS mini that launched back in late 2009. The nice variants range from Treadmill, where the columns shift to the right every time a piece drops, to Gravity, which DRASTICALLY changes the gameplay with a dimension oft unexplored in the puzzle genre. And while this new version costs $9.99 (the same price that the mini version of the game launched), the similarities stop there. And there is only one word that changes everything: online.

Yes, online mode has made its way from Russia with love. From leaderboards to time attack, battle mode with power ups to even co-op (yes, co-op mode). Simply put Tetris online is hands down, some of the most fun I’ve ever had on the PlayStation Network. In local multiplayer mode you can have up to four players, and in online mode up to six. In the vanilla Battle Mode the goal is to create your lines as fast as possible to send lines to fill up the opponents’ screens. It’s a race to see who can last not only the longest, but play the smartest. The power ups are distributed randomly can completely change a battle’s dynamic. I’ve never found myself screaming louder in triumph, frustration, or just pure malice as when you play Tetris with some of your buddies. Co-op is definitely my favorite of the additions. Two players get together and control two halves of a giant overlapping board and must cooperate in order to clear even one line. Voice chat is a must for this, and fortunately it works well. And with the online leaderboards, you definitely will have the bragging rights to hold above your friends from your arduous tribulations of the classic Marathon mode.

Unfortunately, the online mode is also where this latest incarnation of Tetris has the majority of its flaws. And it’s not like they are all that bad, it’s just that they are severely frustrating when you expect things in this day and age to work without a hitch. Every time you play the game you have to manually log in to EA’s server to meet other players or record your own high scores. There is no automatic option to select and it’s just frustrating. Also, there is no party system in the new Tetris when playing online. Every time you meet with a group of your friends want to switch modes, you must all separate and have the host re-invite each person every time. The headsets go silent until the new connection is made and it’s quite the mood killer.

Tetris is for gamers young and old, from casual to the most extreme of the hardcore. EA somehow managed to improve on the unimprovable, and they definitely made for that debacle of the mini released in 2009. This time, the $10 price tag is entirely worth it entirely because of the functioning, if not cumbersome online system. This is the definitive version of a game that I never knew could change. You will get addicted on Tetris again when you play this game, and you will love it. It’s the only reaction possible.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Gorgeous visuals and sound to the iconic game

+ Myriad online modes and leaderboards provide a fresh take on classic gameplay

– The online problems don’t detract from the core experience, but are annoying

9 out of 10