Review: Tetris (Gameboy)

By Drew Wilson

Tetris is a puzzle game with many different versions. In this review, we check out one of the most classic versions of this game: the one released on the original Gameboy. We check out this version and see how worth it this game is to play today.

This version of Tetris was released in 1989 and would compliment it’s companion version released on the NES. This version would have the added bonus of being on a mobile system powered by 4 AA batteries.

This version would share a lot of what the NES had to offer. There was the Russian themes seen throughout the game and two modes of play.

The two modes of play is exactly like the NES counterpart. Type A allows players to experience the endless version of Tetris where every ten lines would advance the player by one level. The game only ends when the player is overwhelmed by the falling pieces and allows the pieces to make it all the way to the top of the playing field. We do note, however, that the cap level appears to be level 20. The difficulty between level 19 and level 20 is substantial compared to the difficulty jump between level 19 and 20. However, if players manage to reach 210 lines, the player does not advance any levels whatsoever and play continues until the player dies or the power is switched off. The higher the difficulty a player manages to get to, the more spectacular space launch a player gets at the end of play. Unlike the NES version, however, there is only a top three scores and only scores players actually obtain are ever put in to the sort of hall of fame. There are no pre-set scores placed into the hall of fame. Advancing a level during play is denoted by a simple little chime. Since the Gameboy is grey scale, colours of the pieces couldn’t easily be changed like NES version.

Type B is also is very much like the Type B in the NES console version. Starting level determines how fast the pieces falls and height determines how much garbage is inserted on the screen at the beginning. Players are given the same goal of 25 lines to complete the level. The harder the initial settings a player has (and if the player completes the 25 line goal) the more musical players appear on the “Fiddler on the Roof” end scenario. However, one deviation from the NES version is that the musical players are more generic players as opposed to the characters from other games as featured on the NES version. Still a nice little feature nevertheless.

Because the Gameboy was primarily grey scale, the tiles were actually textured to feature little designs depending on the piece in question. I would say the designs were so nicely done, it gave the illusion of full colour even though colour really wasn’t there in the game.

One thing to note is that the Gameboy had limited refresh rate capabilities. So, as the player advanced to more difficult levels in Type A, the more difficult it was to see the pieces as they fell on the screen. So, there comes a point where the player is simply operating with pieces that only become effectively visible once the pieces were actually placed. That makes the square for the next piece very vital for survival. If one were to use the necessary hardware to get play onto a standard screen, then Tetris became markedly easier and the only limitations became that of the players ability to place the pieces in strategic parts of the field rather than an ability to even see the pieces in the first place.

Graphically, this game did an incredible job with the hardware limitations. With only grey scale graphics and limited screen space, I thought this game did an incredible job and cramming everything into a nice little environment. Obviously, the statistics of how many of each piece had to go, but since it was an aesthetic feature more than anything else, it wasn’t a huge disappointment to see it go. So, very well done with the graphics all around. Even the end scenarios were a really nice thing to see. You can sort of see some of the piece textures reused for the launch pad and I thought this was a nice touch more than a case of texture recycling.

Audio-wise, players could select between four modes. Three of them were different songs the player could hear throughout play and the fourth option was no music at all. It’s really good that they added an off option in case some players didn’t like the music in question so that there was a more minimalistic way of playing, but I thought the music was really good and rarely felt the need to use the muted option. In fact, music type A was such a classic and well sequenced song, there’s been numerous versions of this song featured in numerous remakes ever since such as The New Tetris. When the Simpsons made a parody of Tetris, this was the song that was used in that parody. There’s something about this song that really encapsulated a sort of spirit of Tetris so much so that it is probably the most recognizable Tetris song of all time. It even easily overshadowed the theme song of this game which is quite impressive since I thought the theme song was well done too.

Overall, this is a very classic version of Tetris. There aren’t many features that exist in more modern versions of Tetris, but I thought that this version did a good job at evading the feeling that this game has aged. I found this to be quite enjoyable overall and it can serve as either a good look back in the history of Tetris or a good nostalgic trip down memory lane.


Furthest point in game: Type-A: obtained exactly 210 lines in Type-A and was able to beat Level 9, height 5 in Type B.

General gameplay: 24/25
Replay value: 10/10
Graphics: 10/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 98%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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