Review: Tetris (Sega Genesis)

In this review, we get as many lines as possible in the Sega Genesis game, Tetris. We find out if this puzzle game is worth playing.

This game was released in 1989. It is one of many releases in this series.

We previously reviewed the NES version. that game got a great score. We also tried the Game Boy version. That game got a fantastic score. Versions released later include Tetris Plus on the Game Boy. That game got a pretty mediocre score. We tried Tetris DX on the Game Boy Color. That game got a pretty good score. We gave the N64 game The New Tetris a try. That game got an OK score. Magical Tetris Challenge on the Game Boy Color was OK, but nothing huge. Finally, we tried Tetris Worlds on the Game Boy Advance. That game was pretty good. So, we decided to walk things back a little and give this version a try.

One of the features that separates this version and the NES and GameBoy version is the inclusion of item pieces. If you turn on item pieces, you can occasionally get a regular Tetris piece that flashes. If you complete a line with this piece, you can either see a random letter appear or see the whole piece disappear – possibly taking out a few extra lines in the process. What you get is never clear until you use it.

At the menu screen, you can also choose which level you wish to start out with. This is in line with the Game Boy and NES versions. In this case, you can start at anywhere between level 0 and level 9. This determines how fast the pieces fall.

In addition to this, you can set the height. By default, the height is 0. If you choose a bigger height, the game will add random garbage for you to clear out at the beginning. The height can go all the way up to level 13.

Finally, you can choose between a timed game and not. If you choose a timed game, you’ll get 3 minutes to clear as many lines as possible before it is game over.

The great news is that the combination of options does allow for a large variety of different games. Sometimes, this can work in your favor. For instance, adding height to a timed game can help you get a better chance at getting more lines. This is because you don’t have to spend a large amount of time building up your stack for lines. Instead, you can work down on the garbage, giving you height to work with from the very beginning.

One pitfall to this game is that the controls can be a little finicky. When a piece appears at the top of the screen, you actually have to wait for it to fall down at least one line before you can rotate it. This can be seen by some players as this being a simple case of sluggish controls. However, if you wait for that one line fall, the controls and up being fine. This strikes me as more of a case of poor design than anything else.

Another problem with this game is the fact that it’s not necessarily clear what the item pieces do exactly. Some seem to temporarily slow the fall of pieces down while others can clear more lines then expected. Unfortunately, you never really know what you are going to get until you clear a line with the item piece. Even then, there is no explanation as to what each letter even means. So, you have to puzzle through what the benefits of some of these pieces really are.

In addition to this, the level up system isn’t exactly clear. If you are like me and already have experience on the NES and Gameboy version, you might think 10 lines means a level up. In a number of instances, that is actually true. Unfortunately, some levels seemingly require more than 10 lines to advance. As a result, you may find yourself going over 140 lines and you are still struggling to get to level 11. So, how exactly you advance to the next level is unclear. All the player can know from the get-go is that you need lines to get to the next level. How many, well, that’s simply unclear.

One more oddity in this game is the fact that this game seems to cap out at level 11. While that may make it sound easy to more experienced players, that actually doesn’t tell the whole story. You may find yourself doing reasonably well in level 11 at first, but the pieces still gradually move faster and faster. Eventually, the game will catch up to your skill and kill you off. You just can’t tell based on the level.

Generally speaking, I had a some pretty high expectations for this game since it did so well on systems like the NES and Game Boy. Unfortunately, I was left disappointed by unclear item systems and faulty design. While one can get some enjoyment out of this game, it’s nothing like what can be found on other systems. So, not the greatest game in the world.

The graphics are fairly decent for a game of its time. Probably the biggest highlight in this area is the continual changing of background pictures as you advance the levels (the picture changes after you beat 2 levels). Some are more confusing than others, but the quality is certainly there. The game itself is nicely shaded out so the art doesn’t actually get in the way of gameplay. This retains a sufficient amount of color contrast between the pieces and background. Unfortunately, the menu leaves so much to be desired and the pieces have a fairly Lego-like appearance. While the effect of clearing lines is OK, it’s hard to be impressed by the graphics otherwise.

The audio, for me, is the biggest weakness in this game. The sorest part about this game of all is the fact that there is only one track throughout the entire time you are playing. You do have menu music, but once you are in the game, you get the same single track every time. The only interesting aspect is the increase in Beats Per Minute as you advance to the next level, but beyond that, you are in for a very repetitive time. The only other track that appears is the panic music when you have 30 seconds left in a timed game. You don’t have this in any other mode, just for timed mode. At least in other systems, you can have a choice. In this game, that choice is gone. The sound effects are very average. You don’t get anything other than the absolute basics. So, a lackluster element in this game if you ask me.

Overall, it’s very easy to get excited over the idea of playing a Tetris game. With the added power of the Genesis system, you might be tempted to believe this is going to be Tetris at the next level. Unfortunately, all that there is is largely disappointment and elements of the core Tetris concept. With poor item systems and strange programming, a surprising amount of this game will remain unclear throughout you time. The graphics are decent enough with the backgrounds, but nothing else is necessarily impressive. The audio is very lackluster unfortunately. An overall above average game, but very disappointing considering the expectations.


Furthest point in game:
192 lines
Level 11

No Items:
201 lines
Level 11

29 lines
Level 2

No Items
30 Lines
Level 2

Height 13
68 Lines
Level 6

No Items
108 Lines
Level 10

No Items
40 Lines
Level 4

General gameplay: 16/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 1/5

Overall rating: 58%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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