Tetris: A Look Back (GameBoy)

Picture of 2 Tetris carts
Left: English Tetris Cart
Right: Japanese Tetris Cart
My English cart is in pretty bad condition, but I got it off of Amazon. The Japanese cart was actually from a car-boot sale!

Tetris is one of the best games ever. Rather than repeat what many people have already said, I thought I’d actually look back at the design of the game, rather than give a review (a normal review wouldn’t actually explain why the game is good, it would just give opinions on 4 main categories that don’t really apply to Tetris). As you probably know, Tetris is an outstanding game, but why is it? Well, time to find out!

There is no plot. So don’t ask about one!

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The music in this game is amazing. It is really catchy, and you could listen to it on loop for hours and it still wouldn’t get annoying. It is so amazing, there are thousands of remixes on YouTube and other video sharing sites.

The graphics are very simplistic. They don’t make your eyes bleed, and they look good for the GameBoy. The game uses 4 shades of grey (at least there isn’t 50 shades)!

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You have to place falling blocks into rows. When you get a full row, you get points and the blocks disappear. If you destroy 4 rows at once, you get a Tetris, and many more points. It’s a very simplistic puzzle game, and it is really addictive.

So, I bet you are now wondering why this game is amazing, and one of the most revolutionary games of all time. Well, I will now explain why this is a great game.

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Note: many people have different interpretations of the Tetris graph. Some believe it is much steeper, some think it is separated into chunks. The graph shown is a simplified version, but the main point I am going to make doesn’t change, even if you do use other graphs.

The image above shows the learning curve that occurs when playing normal video games, compared to Tetris. As you can see, on normal games it usually is difficult to start off with, and you get better at the game faster and faster, until you’ve mastered it.

This isn’t the case with Tetris. Your skill level increases the same amount each hour you play. Because of this, there are never any difficulties while playing. When you first play the game, you start on level 0. It goes slowly, letting you learn how to play, and build up your skill level. As you progress through the levels, you are faster with removing lines and positioning the blocks.

Now, all of that is fine and dandy, but what does this have to do with the game being good? Well, have you ever played a game and gave up because it was too difficult, or too boring? Well, Tetris jumps these hurdles with a few fundamental design choices. All throughout your play-through, no matter your skill level, you need to focus on the game to win. And the levels allow you to get used to the game as you progress. You never feel bored as you are always doing something in the game, and it is never too difficult as it is allowing you to get further in the game gradually.

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So, you may be thinking: “Well, the game is well designed. That’s cool. But why is it so addictive?” Well, time to answer that question! There are a few major reasons why:

1 – Again, the music is really catchy. Back in the day, you’d probably have to play this game to hear it. This may be a minor point compared to the rest, but it is quite important.

2 – The game is simplistic, allowing anyone to play the game. You may hear many people (who don’t play as many video games) say that they like Tetris. This is because it is quite easy to pick up and play, even with no experience playing it (refer back to the graph).

3 – The game is everywhere. It’s on nearly every Nintendo handheld (GB, GBC, GBA, DS, DS, 3DS and even the Game & Watch), on the AppStore on many phones, on many websites (via Flash Player, HTML5 and other services), and on many other systems. This means anyone can play Tetris, and it is everywhere, with no change whatsoever (excluding the music, that is different in some versions).

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So, that is why the game is so good. I would recommend the game (obviously). Whether you’ve seen the GameBoy version, the NES version or one of the numerous versions of the game. You have probably played it in some form or another already. But, anyway, even if you don’t like Tetris, you can’t deny it’s impact on the gaming industry.

Editor’s Note:  Did you know Tetris has the record for being the most ported computer game, ever?

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