SummaryGorby's gift to gamers everywhere!
The GoodBefore I begin, a disclaimer: I am reviewing Nintendo's NES version of Tetris simply because it is the one I am familiar with -- not because I think it is the best. Other versions, including ones for the PC, Game Boy, and even the fabled Tengen cart for the NES, may be better. I honestly can't say because I haven't played them. I am quite confident, though, that Tetris is basically Tetris no matter whose Tetris we are talking about. That said, on with the review…
Thank goodness Reagan and Gorbachev got together and put a stop to that whole Cold War mess. Sure we averted nuclear holocaust and opened up relations with rich and ancient cultures, but there were other good reasons to rejoice as well. Like letting America play Tetris!
I have to admit that when I was first exposed to Tetris, I was not impressed. Looking back on it now, I can see what an immature grade-schooler I must have been to have underestimated this gem. It may not have shooting or flying or jumping, but that doesn't mean it isn't an incredibly addictive and fascinating gaming experience. In fact, that is probably WHY it is so darn impressive.
Tetris is subtle but not boring. Now I pretty much HATE "puzzle games" (think crosswords and jumbles) because they involve so much work on the part of the player with so little payoff. You typically strain your brain so that you can solve the puzzle designed by someone else to be solved in the particular way the designer had in mind. Not so with Tetris! Yes there are rules, but the player has plenty of freedom to be creative in playing and solving things out. Tetris could have been a frustrating and shallow puzzle experience like Rubik's Cube, but fortunately it turned out to be much more like playing with Lego bricks. That's really why Tetris is considered a classic rather than a mere "retro" novelty or fad: it strikes an ideal balance between designer structure and player spontaneity.
Tetris is also exquisitely balanced in another respect. While Tetris may be regarded as a thinking man's video game, it still manages to incorporate enough action to appeal to a broad audience. The increasing speed with which the player must make decisions adds a wonderful sense of urgency to the game. The cerebral aspect of Tetris is well-balanced against this more visceral element, and the result is very satisfying to say the least.
The BadThere are a few small things about Tetris that can be criticized. The graphics are clean and crisp but nothing exciting. The music/sound is good, but it can get annoying very quickly. Since success in Tetris is largely defined by the level reached and highest score achieved (rather than any ultimate story-based goal like saving the princess, finding the lost treasure, etc.), it would have been nice if Nintendo had thought to include a "Hall of Fame" or "High Score" list so players could save their achievements and compare scores with competing players more easily and reliably. These are minor quibbles, though, and perhaps it is best not to tamper with near-perfection.
The Bottom LineTetris is one of the best games ever made, period. All gamers owe it to themselves to get a hold of some version of Tetris and experience this genre-defining classic.