Game: Tetris Plus
Year Released: 1996
Unless you were literally just born yesterday, you know Tetris. Originally released in 1985, it was pretty much as close to puzzle game perfection as you could get. Even now, over 20 years later, the game holds up like no other. An overwhelming majority of the games released in this genre over the last couple of decades have clearly been inspired by the simple block-stacker. After appearing on computers in the 1980s, the game continued to be released for pretty much every major platform into the mid-90s. In fact, I received an NES copy of Tetris for my eleventh birthday, which was in 1994, nearly a decade after the game was first unleashed upon the world. With that kind of longevity, there was really no reason for a sequel or remake of this game to ever exist.
However, when a game is that successful, more games with the same name are pretty much inevitable. Among the many Tetris variants is Tetris Plus, which, after originally appearing in arcades, made its way to the PlayStation in 1996. Though a solid attempt to cash in on the Tetris name and add to the franchise, Tetris Plus definitely falls short of the perfection the original game had to offer.
Plus features four different game modes, one of which is original Tetris, and one of which is a two-player mode inferior to the likes of Dr. Mario and Bust-a-Move 2. The main mode, Puzzle Mode, offers a new twist on the classic gameplay. That’s to be expected, of course. What was not expected was the fact that Tetris Plus added an actual (and completely unnecessary) storyline to the Puzzle Mode, making the whole thing seem ridiculous. The story involves an explorer and his assistant making their way across the world, and getting trapped in some caves and pyramids along the way. In order to set the professor free, the player must guide him to the bottom of the level by busting up a pre-arranged pattern of bricks already in place, while looking out for the ever-lowering spiked ceiling.
While adding a narrative to Tetris is ridiculous, the actual gameplay itself is not bad. In fact, it can be fun for a little while. The main problem with Tetris Plus is that it doesn’t have the addictive quality that puzzle games need to be successful. Instead of saying “just one more level!” every 30 seconds, it’s more like, “yeah, I guess I’ll do another” until you inevitably just get bored. There’s no reason to play this game instead of, well, Tetris, which by this point was available on just about every computer ever made.
One of the more unique aspects of Tetris Plus is the ability to create your own levels. I enjoyed making colorful, obnoxiously difficult boards and trying to get the professor out of them alive. While this ability does set the game apart from many other puzzle games of the era, it’s ultimately not enough to make you forget that Tetris Plus falls short in pretty much every other way.
Tetris Plus is really not a bad game; it simply doesn’t do anything better than any other puzzle games available at the time. It’s not the most memorable Tetris game, nor is it the best puzzler on the PS1. It does offer enough fun to warrant a purchase if you can find it for cheapsies, especially if you’ve already played every puzzle game you have to death. Ultimately, though, Tetris should have just been left alone.