Title  : Magical Tetris Challenge
Platforms  : Nintendo 64
Publisher  : Capcom
Game Rating  : 7.8
Review by  : Ken Gagne

The game that launched a thousand Game Boys is back for the 64-bit age. Capcom, creators of Street Fighter and Resident Evil, publish their first Nintendo 64 game, Magical Tetris Challenge, featuring the Disney cast. 

There are two main modes of play. Magical Tetris pits Mickey, Minnie, Donald, or Goofy against Pete and his gang as they seek to use a magical gemstone for evil. The storyline advances between games of Tetris as our heroes defeat encountered adversaries in two-player games of Tetris. 

High-scoring moves cause the other player to receive oddly-shaped pieces to use, some composed of as many as 25 blocks. These pieces can be used for otherwise impossible moves, but usually serve instead to disrupt one's strategy; their shapes are so wild as to be nigh-impossible to place. Either way, they disrupt the unadulterated game's balance. 

Fortunately there is Updown Tetris, with a more classical two-player punishment: high-scoring moves cause the other player's stack to rise a certain number of levels. None of Magical Tetris' unusual tetrads are present in this mode. 

Both modes can be played against the computer or a human opponent, but there are no four-player modes. 

The computer artificial intelligence is as ruthless as ever, especially in Magical Tetris, sending unmanageable blocks aplenty while receiving them gracefully. It's odd that a game with a pre-adolescent theme would prove too difficult for the intended audience. Others may smile at the story elements but focus on the gameplay. 

A new feature, the "temporary landing system", is a boon for novices and veterans. It casts a shadow of the in-play piece on where it would land, given its current position, aiding players in making quick decisions and avoiding mistakes. 

Puzzle games have rarely depended on intense graphics, so Tetris loses no points. The Disney cast shows up with various costumes, reacting to the game's events, with backgrounds cute and colorful. 

The music is typical for an action game, but not for a puzzler. The tunes are decent, but are neither appropriate nor rememberable (like the original Game Boy's Tetris). 

A real opportunity was missed in the sound effects department. With complex games like Starfox employing hundreds of digitized phrases, a simple game like Tetris fails to have any. You won't hear Mickey's squeaks or Donald's exasperating outbursts, which should be part of the appeal of having the characters present at all. 

Tetris is a timeless game, but doesn't suffer from the occasional innovation. Magical Tetris Challenge offers some new unbalancing features without offsetting them with sufficient positive bonuses. The same core game is available for other systems at a much lower price. It's Tetris, it's fun, but Capcom could have done better.


This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 25-Jan-98