Tetris. One of the best and most inclusive games of all time. I received my first copy of the tetromino dropping puzzle game for Christmas in 1989, and it quickly became my most played NES game. I followed that with several copies for the Game Boy, and several subsequent releases on consoles and cellphones. My first attempt at 100%-ing a game harkens back to trying to see all the various Nintendo characters that were hidden in the later levels of B-Type, so I consider myself a pretty seasoned player.
Seasoned, sure. Able to win this new version of Alexey Pajitnov’s incredibly popular game? Seems pretty unlikely. Still, even with that new difficulty, I think that Tetris 99, the new free-to-play battle royale for Nintendo Switch, is a near perfect version of the classic.
The game itself is the typical Tetris gameplay you all remember: drop and rotate blocks, clear lines, and as you advance, the speed advances as well. The wrinkle here is that you’re paired up against 98 other players, and as you complete lines, you put garbage lines on your opponents. The more people you knock out of the game, the more your cleared lines impact the players you’re targeting, and as more people are defeated, the faster and faster those dropping bricks and garbage lines stack up.
This is a breathtakingly difficult take on the battle royale genre. Picture if 12 of the last surviving players in Fortnite all decided to just shoot YOU, at the same time, while you frantically try to dodge. The best I’ve managed to place is 4th so far, and by the end of that round I was barely able to see the bricks dropping, and was using muscle memory to get things into place. Endgame in Apex Legends has nothing on the level of stress here.
With recent datamined information coming to light, it looks like Nintendo will continue to enhance this release, probably to help incentivize its basic and rather unimpressive online offering. I can’t wait to drag my Switch back to my parents house to watch my Mom, who’s been playing Tetris on an ancient Game Boy since the early ’90s, absolutely destroy an entire field of opponents. If you own a Switch, you have to download this and wade in.