Tetris Tower 3D
I couldn't help but noticing that games are vastly underrepresented at Noise To Signal - well, games of the non-computer, offline, analogue, manual kind. Luckily, I have here Tetris Tower 3D, so I thought why the heck not review it for everyone.
Tetris: a game so classic that I wonder why so few people get it tattooed, or name their children after it. (I imagine myself in a few years time with twin girls named Tetris and Tardis. Awww!) Anyway - Tetris now comes in a live, colour, and totally standalone version, enhancing the gameplay by the haptic experience of actually chucking the pieces down the board by hand.
I'd wanted Tetris Tower 3D ever since I first spotted it on the internet, but it proved difficult to get. It turned out that people are happy to ship DVDs and books to Germany - but no toys. However, a friend and workmate of mine got his hands on one and traded it with me for the last ever available pack of a specific brand of dental floss. What worries me slightly is that he seems to have gotten the Tetris Tower 3D exclusively for the purpose of doing this trade with me. I think I made the better deal though!
The rules are simple. You drop the little pieces into the board, trying to complete solid lines, until you reach the top of the board which means GAME OVER for you.
Playing (with) it feels a little like playing... the mutant lovechild of Tetris and Lego (with a dash of Connect Four in the multiplayer version).
This is what Tetris Tower 3D can do:
- Play the ever-so-wonderful Tetris melody as well as sound effects, or just the sound effects, or no sound at all.
- Tell you which piece to play now (glowing), and which to play next (flashing).
- Tell you how much time you have to make your move, by counting down from five to zero at the side of the board.
- Increase the pace of the timer as well as the music to create epic excitement towards the endgame.
- Start a game with a higher (faster) level, up to level five.
- Recognise when you hit the top and GAME OVER you with a nasty sound.
- Offer singleplayer and multiplayer mode (for playing modes see below).
And this is what Tetris Tower 3D is not so good at:
- Slide a piece under an overhang.
- Rotate a piece. That will be your job. This means that you first rotate the piece into the right alignment and then drop it.
- Recognise that you cheated and played the wrong piece.
- Make a solid line go away. People who saw this at my place held it, turned it around and asked me in earnest how it made solid lines vanish. It doesn't.
- Recognise the completion of a line. This, too, is left to the player. You have a little switch for each line, and when one is completed, you flick the according switch into your direction to indicate that you scored.
- Play endlessly. Due to the physical and spacial restrictions of the board, a game lasts five minutes at most.
These things aren't drawbacks as such. They do make Tetris Tower 3D a tiny bit unintuitive to handle though for the Tetris addicts. So some aspects of this otherwise classic game take some getting used to.
The game comes with a variety of game modes, such as:
The game tells you which piece to play, you do that, you complete lines (or fuck up), then you hit the top and that's that. This version feels a little like the zen of Tetris - you have no-one to compete with (just time) and nowhere to go - when the board's filled up, it's over. Why this is such insane fun I can't tell, but it is.
Despite the simplistic approach, the multiplayer mode complicates gameplay. Two players sit opposite each other and take turns in dropping pieces. In online multiplayer versions of Tetris you play as usual, just that you can hinder your opponent by scoring lines fast and/or in bulk. In Tetris Tower 3D, players of course share one Tetris environment, so you have to hinder each other by blocking lines for the other, but forcing them at the same time to play moves that will allow you to score a solid line next... which makes Tetris Tower 3D just a little bit strategic. It is, in that aspect, more of a traditional board game such as Draughts or Nine Men's Morris (but only slightly).
But what really makes the multiplayer version so complicated to play is that there is no "pause" button (or none that I could find, anyway) which is needed for example when one of you has to answer the door - or worse, if one player has played the wrong piece. It can happen accidentally, especially if you play in bright conditions (such as daytime, or using lamps) that make the piece-to-play display harder to read. Saying "Hey, you were supposed to play the square one!" takes up far too much time of your own move time, and also, you can't prove it as your own piece-to-play is glowing already. In order to solve this, I suggest to agree upon a one-syllable alert word before playing as to reduce human communication to a minimum, and to take notes of players dropping ill pieces and subtract the number from their total score at the end.
Marking solid lines “yours” and grabbing the next piece from the pile take up too much time as well - this game is bloody fast even at low levels!
But there is more! Bonus game modes:
... also called a tourney. The limited time per match means that you can play more game runs, and that makes Tetris Tower 3D perfect for tourney-like competitions - should you have enough geeky friends around.
It's like the multiplayer, only you're drunk, and that is by and large the best way to play Tetris Tower 3D.
You can use Tetris Tower 3D to create awesome pixel graphics. It is more of a challenge than it looks. Here are some of my own creations:
This variant, again, can be played in zen puzzle as well as competitive mode (in which players take turns drawing shapes for the other(s) to fill with Tetris pieces).
In essence: everyone should find a mode that suits them.
But the game is not suitable for every situation. Tetris Tower 3D-friendly situations include:
- LAN parties (for the shock value, irony, humour, and general 8-bit-love)
- Most parties involving booze (for exceptions see below)
- Board game evenings (for example if you try to get your parents acquainted with your geeky significant other, or your new significant other acquainted to your geeky parents)
- When it's very hot during summer and you don't have air conditioning (so you can actually get away from the computer... without having to give up Tetris)
Do not play Tetris Tower 3D in these situations though:
- Pub crawls (because you can't reorder Tetris pieces that you have lost in a stupor)
- Trains/airplanes/waiting rooms/... (same reason as above - just take your Game Boy)
- Anywhere your dog or offspring could eat the pieces.
So let me summarise the pros and cons:
- The lights indicating whose turn it is or what piece to play are really hard to see in bright daylight.
- There's no pause button - which would have been be handy, particularly in multiplayer mode.
- There's also no "off" button. The game turns itself off after idle 60 seconds, but of course when the music is awesome like that, you want to save battery power.
- It's fun, it's cute, it's novelty, and it's available during the next power cut.
I had my boyfriend's fantasy roleplaying group declaring this, unison, too bloody geeky to exist - but others come to our flat in the evenings just to play a game of Tetris. It was definitely worth the loss of floss.