Review by nintentoad64

Reviewed: 11/08/07

Halo 3 has its up and downs

Halo 3. The last of the trilogy (or is it?). A very sad moment for some or a happy moment for Bungie for finally completing what they set out to do: captivate gamers minds with enhanced super-soldiers and a war with humans and an alien species that spred across a vast galaxy. An amazing story line finally coming to an epic end.

It’s not often that a game is so successful as to have an entirely new genre created just to accommodate its countless imitators and copy-cats, but Alexey Pajitnov’s Tetris happened to be one such game. This simple little puzzler of arranging differently shaped blocks in rows to make them disappear has since inspired so many other developers to make games in the same style that the term “falling block puzzle game” was born to describe the genre Tetris had spawned.

Even within the Tetris name there have been numerous variations and reissues to the game as it gets released on each new platform; Tetrisphere, Tetris Attack, Tetris Worlds, and Wordtris to name just a few. But even though I’ve played many of these attempts to “spruce up” the game and improve upon a classic formula, I keep coming back to Nintendo’s 8-bit version because it is uncomplicated, unadorned and pure Tetris at its best.

What could be simpler? Blocks of different shapes fall from the top of the screen and your goal is to form solid rows with them. Doing this makes that row disappear, and if you don’t do this quickly enough the blocks will stack up to the top of the screen and the game will end. Extra points can be scored by causing multiple rows to vanish at the same time (to a maximum of four). Score enough points and you’ll enter a new level where the blocks fall a little faster. The game control in Tetris is very easy. Basically you can use the A or B buttons to rotate the block onto its different sides, and the directional pad to move the block left or right and slam it down for extra points. The simple design of the NES controller perfectly compliments such basic gameplay. Can you imagine what it would be like trying to navigate your way through Tetris with a Playstation 2 Controller to deal with? So much redundancy and needless complication! Even the 6-button SNES controller would have been too much.

Tetris has simple graphics that get the job done but don’t go beyond being functional. But it’s a puzzle game, and let’s face it, no one plays Tetris so they can be awed by the graphics (the gameplay takes care of that all by itself.) Tetris has a simple interface where the blocks fall in the middle of the screen and scores and stats such as the number of different kinds of blocks that have fallen so far in the game, are along the side. As you move up in levels, the blocks change color which adds some variety. The colors used for the blocks are all tasteful and there are no tacky or shocking combinations. In fact many of the levels keep the same base color for all the blocks but make each kind of block a different shade (for example light blue, navy blue, royal blue, etc.).

There is music playing continuously in Tetris, but the quality isn’t bad at all and you even get a choice of three different tunes to choose from based on your mood. There is an energetic folk-dance type song, a more spacey and relaxing song, and in keeping with the Russian theme a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “Sugar Plum Fairy” from the Nutcracker ballet. Sound effects are kept to a minimum but are well done nonetheless. There is a nice crunching sound whenever a block hits another and a neat bleepy sound if you score a 4-in-a-row combo. I also like how the music speeds up if your screen is filling up with too many blocks, to indicate a sense of urgency that you’d better do something FAST before it’s too late.

Something else that I always liked about Tetris was that unlike many puzzle games, it had an “ending” of sorts. Whereas the challenge of most puzzle games is just to see how large a number of points you can score before dying, Tetris takes your points and turns it into a nice little graphical scene at the end of the game, which changes and becomes more impressive based on the number of points you have scored. What a cool little extra feature!

The formula is so simple…the game so uncomplicated. Yet there is enough subtlety and challenge so that Tetris never gets boring. The way the blocks speed up in each new level, the trick of sliding blocks along the floor before the final “slam,” and setting up the blocks in such a way as to get many 4-line combos are just a few examples of this. This is why Tetris has such a high addiction factor, and why the NES version does it more justice than some of the newer versions. There are no weird “special” blocks, no two-player mode, no 3-D graphics, no extra bells and whistles or visual distractions to get in the way of the gameplay. And with Tetris, that’s the way things should be.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Halo 3 (US, 09/25/07)

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