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%
Good grief ski! If this is an example of the kinda computer game work going on behind that iron curtain, I think I'll pack my best pair of Levis, my little red book, and a years supply of 'Beatles records! 'Cos back in the USSR you don't know how lucky you are, boy.
As you may, or may not have gathered, Tetris originated in deepest Russia, the land of Stolichnaya, shot putters, and Doctor Zhivago. Fortunately for us, Tetris has now appeared on this side of the great divide, no doubt dropped off by Gorbachev after his last visit to Harrods! And what a cracker it's turned out to be.
Getting down to the nitty gritty, I can assure you that Terris will have you hooked from the moment you pick up your joystick. The game is simplicity itself - in fact it seems so simple that I'm surprised no-one has thought of it before.
You are required to slide a number of different shaped blocks together, to form lines across the bottom of the screen. The blocks drop from the top of the play area, slowly at first, giving you a few seconds to turn and position each block as accurately as you can, to form the solid line. If this is accomplished (and it isn't always that easy!) the line vanishes, leaving a little more room in the playing area to position more blocks. And so on.
Falling to fit shapes together in some kind of order can create a kind of block traffic jam, giving you less and less room to manoeuvre new shapes. If the pile reaches the top of the screen the game finishes. On the other hand, if you become skillo at the game, the speed at which the shapes fall increases, until the drop rate becomes so fast that if you blink you miss two or three blocks!
Points are awarded for placing blocks, and a nice bonus can be earned for completing a solid line. Line making should be your main aim, as the space it creates leaves more room for all the other shapes yet to drop.
Some of the shapes are simple to slot into place, while others, mainly the crooked ones, we an absolute pain. This is where the 'rotate' option comes in very useful. Spin a shape in mid-flight until you can easily slot it into the pile of blocks at the bottom of the screen. If you are quick enough a shape can even be shoved under an odd section to fill a gap, but make a mistake and the shape is stuck there for good. It takes rapid reactions and a very good eye even to beat the first difficulty level, so be warned!
As a package Tetris is well smart. The front end is pleasing and easy to use. The nifty scrolling top score message and graphical effects are also a visual treat, as are all the effects used throughout the game. It has the feel of a highly polished program, and it shows. For every level within the game, a different graphical background is displayed, all of which helps to lend the game a generous helping of style, and bumps up the addictiveness mark even further. Aurally the 128K version can boast a wonderful sound track and even the humble 48K has a suitably jaunty little number.
A cracker then, and if there is any justice in the world it'll be topping the charts by the time you read this. Tetris will appeal to shoot 'em up fans because of the need for quick reactions, and it'll also attract strategy/adventure buffs thanx to the large quantities of brain power you need to solve it. In fact this game is one of the very few inoffensive, non-sexist, non-violent computer games that will appeal to the whole family, from Grandma down to the pet hamster. So I urge everyone to check out Tetris as soon as humanly possible, or miss out on one of the most original, addictive and playable computer games for quite a long while.
If all that is not encouragement enough to purchase your copy (and I don't see why it shouldn't be) then Mirrorsoft has instigated the 1988 Tetris Players All-Corners Championship. The top ten scorers at Tetris will be invited to the National Final in London for a chance to battle it out for the Tetris crown. First prize -a holiday for two in (wait for it) Russia. I kid you not! Of course if you are silly enough not to buy your own copy of the game, you too will be whisked off to the USSR - for two weeks hard labour in a Siberian salt mine. Nuff said!
Yahay( Now this is what I call a game! This, as you may remember, was Mirrorsoft's 'Russian' game. 'The first ever game from Russia,' the hoardings screamed, or words to that effect. 'And the three bears,' thought I, but my doubts were soon silenced by the sheer brilliance of the game itself. For Tetris is computer gaming at its very best. You have what looks like a beaker, and strange shapes drop from above at speed that vary according to the difficulty level and also to how far you've got in the game. You can manipulate the shapes as they fall to fit into ones that have already landed, and the idea is to fit them together as efficiently as possible, leaving no space unfilled if you can manage it. The reason? Well, the beaker and the shapes are arranged in a fairly simple grid system, and every horizontal line of this grid which you fill completely disappears. It sounds complicated but in fact it's strikingly straightforward - and fiendishly tricky. Better still the Spectrum version is just about the best one available - don't ask me why. but it's smoother and more playable than even the spanky 16-bit version. Like 720', Tetris still merits the ultimate YS award, so here goes with probably my highest ever mark for anything...
A real corker here - and, despite the fact that it came out over two years ago (I think), in many peoples opinion it's still the best puzzler to date. In fact the notorious Dr B still can't get enough of it. And, as is the case with most of these things, it's excrutiatingly simple to play.
Basically lots of different-shaped bits fall from the top of the screen, and the idea of the game is for you to rotate these shapes as they fall so they all fit together neatly when they land at the bottom. Y'see, if the pile of blocks manages to reach the top of the screen you lose the game. But if you manage to twizzle them so they fit together neatly to form a solid row across the screen, then that row will disappear (thus making room for the rest of the falling blocks). Get me? (As with many of these games, it's a difficult concept to describe, but easy to understand once you see somebody playing it.)
And if you're thinking that this all seems incredibly boring and tedious, well, you're totally wrong. It's skill. In fact, its completely and utterly addictive - almost too much so in fact. It'll have you tearing your hair out!
Tetris is the sort of game to give you nightmares. It's the sort of game to provoke newspaper headlines like "My son's mind warped by geometric fiends!" In the mould of infuriating wonders like Rubik's Cube and September (shortly to appear from Activision) Tetris is quite the most maddeningly addictive and original game I've seen, ooh, all month.
Its Russian origins (hence funny "R" in the title) are entirely irrelevant so I'm sorry I mentioned them really. (What are you talking about - Ed?) Apparently it was invented by a cosmonaut on his coffee break or something.
The aim of the game is very simple indeed. From the top of the screen fall assorted coloured blocks - straight lines, 90 degree corners, straights with corners etc. You have to rotate the pieces as they fall and move them horizontally so when they reach the bottom of the screen ail the sides touch each other. Gradually the platform gets higher and higher until it reaches the top of the screen and... the game ends.
Hang on. I must have missed something here. Yes, OK, so all the pieces aren't exactly touching each other. Yeah, so there are a few gaps here and there. Oh, I see. If I make the bits fall so they form a line along the bottom of the screen unbroken by gaps, that line will disappear, my score will shoot up and all the other bits will fall down one level. Now I've got more room to make more lines before I get to the top of the screen. I see...
Obviously, you'd have to be some sort of genius to continually manage to make the bottom line fit just right; the bits just don't fall in a convenient order, and so the trick is to put each piece in a position where it will do most good to a number of lines at once. Sticking that "L" shape in the hole one way up may complete one line, but by rotating it through 90 degrees, you might be able to slide it in to bridge most of the gaps in three lines.
Depending on which level you are attempting (1-5 - chosen at the start of each game) the pieces will fall at an equivalent speed. I defy anyone to complete a line on Level 5 without cheating.
Extra points can be had by pulling the joystick down when you're happy with the piece's horizontal position and it's still a little way up the screen. This will cause the piece to fall down at a much faster - though uncontrolled rate. This is only recommended once you've got the hang of the game.
Tetris may be absolutely brilliant to play, but, it has to be said, it's not the prettiest game around. The blocks are made entirely out of attribute squares, and with the colour on the TV turned down you find yourself - visually, at least - back in the days of the ZX81.
It doesn't matter Who cares!
Apart from being highly original. Tetris is very playable indeed. The random order of the pieces ensures that decisions must be made almost instantly, and the simplicity of the controls (left, right and rotate) make it easy to get started. There aren't the pages of rules and regulations found in most strategy games, and, although I never thought I'd say it, it does make a change from shooting things all day.
Instant impression: Dull, graphically retarded and intended for bored chess players.
Considered opinion: The most original and playable game in an age. A strategy game where reaction time and dexterity are crucial.
Author: Peter Jones
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
C64/128, £8.99cs, £12.99dk
Amstrad CPC, £8.99cs, £12.99dk
Spectrum, £8.99cs, £19.99dk
Atari ST, £19.99dk
IBM PC, £19.99dk
A fascinating geometrical oddity, this Russian puzzler turns the obscure mathematical topic of packing into a cult game. One at a time, shapes fall downwards into a rectangular playing area. Left to their own devices they'll pile up until they reach the top of the screen: your task is to guide them down and pack them in tightly so that this doesn't happen.
If you can dovetail the different shapes together that they form a solid row from one side to the other, the row disappears and the shapes above fall down into the gap this makes. As long as you keep this process up you'll survive, but it's not easy: the game speeds up as it goes along for one thing, and small mistakes will raise the heap giving you less time to guide the next shape down.
Different versions of the game have proved to be rather variable in their arcade aspects, but the brilliantly simple idea behind them means they're well worth a look whatever your machine.
Mirrorsoft £7.99cs £12.99dk
C64 version reviewed Issue 5 - ACE Rating 956
Comparisons are odious, but this version of the Russian abstract geometry classic does fall a little way short of its C64 cousin. You can get rid of the silly patterned backgrounds, switch on the 'next shape' view and put up with the rather less impressive music, but the lack of a pause mode reduces it from a great game to being merely a good one. When things start going wrong at high speed you really need to pause and assess the situation: without this, the game's lasting interest takes a bit of a beating.
Amstrad, £8.99cs, £12.99dk
Spectrum, £8.99cs, £12.99dk
C64, £8.99cs, £12.99dk
Atari ST, £19.99dk
IBM PC, £19.99dk
Not a game that can be said to soothe the nerves. On most versions it would become a Newton's cradle type of device for calming the mind at about speeds 5 and 6, but it keeps on speeding up. Your brain starts to go into overload, the fingers fly at light speed, but all to no avail - you just can't win.
However much you persevere that smug computer is always going to win. Oh, the agonies of Tetris players as block after block fails to fit into their carefully arranged pattern and builds ever nearer the top of the screen.
It's also a culprit of not having a pause mode, except on the C64 version. You can never get any sort of a break from the action and you'll walk away a mere shadow of your former self.
Spectrum £2.99, Amstrad £2.99, C64 £2.99
Tetris started life on a wind-up PC clone in the Soviet Academy of Computer Science in Moscow. Since then it's become one of the most converted games in the history of the world, a smash-hit coin-op worldwide, and is to become a hand-held game in the near future.
Why? Well, you tell us, and maybe well all become millionaires. But Tetris is laughably simple, infuriating and completely and utterly addictive, challenging both your mind and reflexes to their limit.
It's based on the rotation of shapes as they fall down the screen. You've simply got to slot them neatly into one another to stay alive. Sounds silly, but once you start playing, we bet you won't stop.
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