For the most part we button-mashers are not terribly good at the video games we love so much. Our skills range from pathetic to mediocre, depending on the demands of each game. Every once in a while, though, a button-masher will find a game that he or she excels at. I was fortunate enough to discover one such game at a young age. When my parents finally broke down and got me an NES for Christmas one of the games it came with was Tetris.
For those of you who have never played Tetris, you are in a very, very small minority so I'm not going to bother explaining it to you. Go google Tetris and then come back. We'll wait….
Okay good, now that we're all on the same page, let's get back on track. I could regale you with tales of the Tetris competitions in my house, but I'd rather tell you about some of the games that came after Tetris, which you may have never heard of before.
The first of these games is Tetris 2. I know what you're thinking – how does one make a sequel to a puzzle game with no plot and no characters? They simply changed the gameplay and goals of the game. In this version of Tetris in order to advance to the next level you must eliminate three flashing blocks, each a different color. The way to eliminate any block is arrange a horizontal or vertical line of three of the same colored blocks. There was the added bonus that some pieces broke apart and you could maneuver them separately through the board. This proved to be one of my favorite Tetris games because seemingly hard levels were easy to beat if you had the right pieces. It was also my favorite two person battleground. Sadly, this version of Tetris never returned and as a result we still have our NES hooked up.
The other Tetris game to come out on the NES that I know of was Hatris. I am not kidding, this game actually existed. Pairs of hats would drop from the top of the screen and you would have to try and maneuver them into piles of five of the same kind of hat before they were cleared from the board. Play got harder as more hats were added. Wizard hats and crowns were among the worst to contend with. The hats landed on a set of eight heads at the bottom of the board. Each level had a different famous head to pile hats on ranging from Charlie Chaplin to Abraham Lincoln to Queen Elizabeth II. To this day I wonder what exactly the creators were on when they created this game. Crack? LSD? Good old fashioned inhalants? It still boggles the mind that this game was ever published. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised though. After all, Nintendo also thought that a giant ape and an Italian plumber were natural enemies.
I honestly don't know if there were any Tetris games for the Super Nintendo or any of its rivals. I never had much to do with those consoles, mostly because there were just so many great games for the NES that I never felt the need to upgrade. However when I finally got a Playstation one of the first games I picked up was The Next Tetris. This is the Tetris game I have played more than all the others put together, mostly because my entire floor freshman year of college would get together and have Tetris competitions for hours.
And for the first time in my life I found myself trouncing my peers at a video game. I was by no means the undisputed champ; my roommate was also very good at Tetris, especially when she was tipsy. When she had a beer or two in her no one could touch her. But when she was sober I was the best player on my floor. I have to admit it felt pretty damn good. You would think that as a result this would be my favorite version of Tetris, but it's not. This version of the game once again uses the Tetris pieces we all know and love but they can break apart based on color. As a result, my slightly colorblind boyfriend never did very well at this game. The goal is to eliminate the last row of blocks on the board. As the level increases so do the rows above your final goal. This is an enjoyable version of Tetris that requires you to adjust your standard Tetris playing strategies, but I never enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Tetris 2.
When the PS2 and X-Box came out, another version of Tetris came out with them. It's called Tetris Worlds and I finally got it for Christmas last year. This game actually has a plot, although I don't quite understand it. As far as I can piece together, no pun intended, there's a race of block shaped aliens whose planet is dying. In order to survive they must journey through a series of portals to a more hospitable world. In order to open these portals you must, drum roll please, play Tetris. There are six different types of Tetris to choose from and a tutorial version for those who have never played before. I've tried all the different kinds and done fairly but I have yet to advance the plot further. I'm not even sure that there is any more plot to unlock, but what's the point of a backstory if you never refer to it again? Regardless of their weak attempts at creating a story, this is a fun game with classic Tetris games and some new ones too. I'm sure anyone can find a version they excel at. Now you just need to find a bunch of people whose asses you can kick at this game.
This columnist would love to hear your thoughts on her work. All glowing praise should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and all hate mail should be directed to the person who cancelled Sports Night, exactly where it belongs.