Title  : The Next Tetris: On-line Edition
Platforms  : Sega Dreamcast
Publisher  : Crave Entertainment
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 5.5
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Tetris arrived in our country from Russia with love over a decade ago. Its compelling gameplay practically changed the way gamers see life. While programmers see pixels and economists equate to dollars, gamers began seeing Tetris blocks everywhere; the addiction didn't stop when the game was turned off. Gamers imagined dropping square pieces in alleys, 'L' blocks between cars, and long, skinny pieces between picture frames. 

Many renditions of Tetris have appeared since then. Some offered new block shapes and unbalanced gameplay. Others packaged the old game with well-known characters, such as Mickey Mouse. Few of these updates have improved upon the original. 

The Next Tetris (TNT): On-Line Edition, published by Crave Entertainment for the Sega Dreamcast, is yet another "new and improved" Tetris that's anything but. 

The goal in any Tetris is to place blocks falling from above. Seven different shapes can be fitted together to form a solid line from left to right, causing it to disappear. If the pile reaches the top of the screen, it's game over. 

As difficult as Tetris is to master, the game is a simple concept, and obviously doesn't require the 128-bit power of the Sega Dreamcast. That doesn't mean it can't showcase that capability with beautiful graphics and a rocking soundtrack. Tetrisphere on the Nintendo 64, for example, had an unexpectedly amazing music score that fit the game perfectly. 

TNT doesn't. Its music is simple and insipid, with abrupt changes between tracks. Remixes on original Tetris tunes are not as cool as they are blasphemous, while a man and woman chanting "Tetris" passes for other scores. 

Another boat was missed in the graphics department. There are no psychedelic swirls, no grand art, no wonders of the world to please the eyes. Most of what you'll see is straight lines, a few moving pieces, and a very metallic feel. 

The most disappointing aspect of TNT is in its control. Tight control is essential for a puzzler; one misplaced block can send the entire pile tumbling. Most Tetris players expect fast play, yet TNT has a disturbing pause between one block being placed, and the next piece coming into play. Even after the current block can be heard to drop, it can still be flipped around for several seconds (purposely or not), allowing for sloppy moves any Tetris aficionado would be ashamed to accept. 

Despite its lacks, TNT offers two new features: Multiminos, and online play. Neither are available in Classic Tetris mode. 

A multimino is a Tetris block of two colors. When the piece lands, the colors split and continue to fall as separate blocks, adding some gameplay elements from Dr. Mario. Multiminos can create cascades (chain reactions) and turn otherwise inconvenient blocks into one's salvation in a dire situation. 

TNT's online features include two-player mode and world rankings. 

If online play is your fancy, then TNT for Dreamcast is the only game in town. Otherwise, classic Tetris can't be done better than on Game Boy, while other versions of TNT, such as for Nintendo 64, offer all the graphics and sound one would expect from a powerful video game system, with some interesting gameplay features. 

As for the Dreamcast version, the only puzzle here is, how hard can it be to do a good Tetris? 


This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 08-Jan-01