This year I had one of the best birthdays ever. No, I didn’t have a huge party, no grand gestures, I simply had a day off work, a cake fashioned out of Krispy Kremes, and a shiny new Nintendo Switch with Tetris 99 to slob out on the sofa with all day. It. Was. Ace. So, it’s probably partially happy donut memories and partly that it is just so bloody addictive that this battle royale re-imagining of the 1980s classic is my most played and best game of 2019.(“Put the kettle on Mum, we’ll need tea!”)
Who would have thought that it would be possible to reinvent Tetris – a game that’s considered so perfect and fundamental it has topped its fair share of must-play and best of lists – not once but twice, in the same number of years, and have both turn out to be a massive success? Nintendo, for one. Following Monstars and Resonair’s triumph bringing the classic block busting game to virtual reality in Tetris Effect, developer Arika introduced this mad, multi-player experience that has users from all over the world flinging blocks of “garbage” (actually what it’s called) at each other and having a frustrating, good time. Well, that and because you can make a battle royale mode out of just about anything these days.
You know the rules; blocks in various shapes drop down, the aim is to try to place them in line to form a Tetris. The moves gets faster, the music speeds up, and if your blocks start to stack higher than the board, it’s game over. Simple. Now, imagine that but with people, much more skilled, chucking horrible grey chunks of rubbish your way at unsettling speeds. This is not the Tetris of old, my friend.(“Stop ruining my day you pigment-less bastards!”)
I always thought I was good at Tetris. I loved my Game Boy and I spent hours on knock-off versions that came pre-installed on early 2000s mobile phones. But playing with 98 other people, feeling that target on my grid, I realised my confidence was severely misplaced. It’s probably why I’ve always preferred solo gaming experiences which, despite some loud sweary moments I’m told can be heard from the next room, I tend to find more soothing – if something goes wrong, there’s no one to shout at but myself for making a bad decision. Tetris 99 however, had me in a sweat.
It doesn’t take too long to start levelling up, though I would still recommend starting out on a low setting (I did not) if you’re not already a pro (I am not). Your pride will be hit more than a handful of times as you find yourself placing on the wrong side of 50, but the joy you feel when you finally reach those top 10 ranks and achieve that Tetris Maximus badge of honour, makes Tetris 99 an all the more humbling experience/you feel better about the hours of life lost.
I became so enthralled with Tetris 99, there are now TV shows from my most addicted period that I can no longer watch without seeing coloured blocks floating around my peripheral view. The Tetris effect? I think so. To keep things interesting, there’s also a local mode, team mode, and if you don’t fancy playing against real-life humans, a CPU battle and marathon mode.
If you didn’t get around to playing Tetris 99 this year, I highly recommend adding it your download list and settling in for some classic Tetris fun with a healthy dose of competition. It’s free for Nintendo Switch Online members or £9.99 for the offline mode (plus an extra fiver for donuts if you want the full experience).