Take the simple idea that you can completely fill a rectangle with other right-angled shapes, mix in two Russian programmers, and not only do you have the first Russian-designed computer game to be commercially available in the West, but also something that ought to be child 's play ... yet isn't.
In Tetris, launched at the Which? Computer Show in January, blocks of different shapes drop from the top of the screen into a box. Each block is made up of four small squares arranged to make a larger square, an L shape or a column.
As the blocks fall they can be rotated or moved horizontally so that every space in the box is filled. Ten small squares make up one horizontal line in the box. When a line is completely without empty spaces, it scrolls down so that the process can be repeated. But if a line remains incomplete, another line must be finished above it before the screen scrolls down.
The more lines that stand incomplete, the higher the blocks above them stack, reducing the space in which falling shapes can be manipulated. Eventually the blocks reach the top of the screen and the dame, which theoretically can continue forever, is over.
A statistic box at the left of the screen shows the number of shapes of different colours that have been positioned, and another box at the bottom right of the screen shows what shape of block will appear onscreen next. Thus strategic decisions can be taken on how to place the blocks leaving no gaps.
There are ten skill levels; the higher the level, the faster the blocks fall and hence the less time for planning (individual pieces can be speeded up anytime, so if you've decided where to place a block you don't have to wait for it!).
And the more successful you are in completing lines, the faster the blocks fall. You can never 'win' Tetris; players can hone their skills for months and still have new challenges to meet, brought to them by a Moscow software team which shows star programmers are the same everywhere.
Tetris programmer Vagin Gerasimov is an 18-year-old student at Moscow University, a sort of Red Square Code Master - so perhaps he'll produce more of the Russian games which Mirrorsoft hopes to bring to Britain.
Graphics: simple foreground with great use of colour: eye-straining optional patterned backgrounds
Sound: the continuous tune is cleverly used but not very good; at least it can be swapped for informative spot effects
Options: sound and patterned backgrounds on/off
'You may not expect much action from a strategic game like this but Tetris has its moments of panic. And you may expect that every game will be just like the last - so prepare to be amazed again. The random selection of shapes ensures that no two games will be the same. This looks destined to be one of the best thinking games yet - and a never-ending source of fun and frustration for thinking players.'
BYM ... 85%
'Tetris is the simplest game to understand around, but the gameplay is very tricky. It seems an easy idea: build a straight line across the bottom of the screen. But as always there's a snag! And there's a snag with the game too. The attraction of Tetris is its simplicity, but that becomes boring after a bit - there's not as much skill Involved as you'd expect.'
DAVE ... 73%
'Tetris is an odd game. The Commodore 64 version was widely renowned for Its addictiveness, but on the Spectrum that's strangely missing. And I was stunned by how much a simple keyboard problem mars the game. O rather than SPACE is used to turn the falling shapes, but my arcade instincts tell me to press the fire button - leading to some annoyed screams when the piece that's been awaited for many a long hour slides into the wrong place! The coloured-background option is pretty useless, and the tune is more a good piece of programming than a good piece of listening. So generally Tetris is a disappointment; yes, it's a jolly fun game, but It could have been astoundingly good on the Spectrum and isn't.'
MIKE ... 73%
Originally programmed by a bunch of university students from Moscow and released by Mirrorsoft, Tetris was first reviewed in issue 50 and received a fairly good reception. The aim is simple; differently shaped and coloured blocks drift down the screen, you've got to guide them down to make a solid line across the bottom. As each line is completed it drops down one space, if it isn't completed the blocks keep building up until they reach the top of the screen.
When I visited the recent ATEI show I was surprised to see a Tetris arcade game - it's one of only a handful of home computer games converted to an arcade machine rather than vice versa. With ten skill levels Tetris certainly poses quite a challenge especially on higher settings, and I must say that I disagree slightly with the comments made by the original reviewers. Tetris is worthy of consideration and I feel will keep the old grey matter ticking over for a few months.
Then: 77% Now: 82%
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