Alexey Pajitnov must be an incredibly rich man by now. But, employed by the Soviet government, it wasn’t until he formed The Tetris Company with Henk Rogers in 1996 that he began to receive royalties for his addictive tile-matching puzzle creation. It’s been 30 years since Tetris burst on the scene in the Soviet Union in 1984, and, having long surpassed 170 million copies sold, Ubisoft take a turn to bring their own distinct flavour to refresh the tried-and-tested formula.
“It’s more than a game. It’s Tetris,” makes for an awkward slogan in an age where its casual-orientated marketing targets an audience that will primarily play in multi-minute bursts. But, in Tetris Ultimate, Ubisoft try their very best to deliver what they hope will be seen as the definitive modern version of what is still widely seen as a timeless classic.
At its core, there is little that most won’t already know. Players are placed in control of queued Tetriminos that fall one at a time from atop the screen, tumbling into the confines of a rectangular matrix. These can be moved and rotated as you look to snuggly align them into complete rows, which, once complete, will be cleared and score you points for your efforts. Success will see you progress through difficulty levels, steadily speeding up the rate that they drop and requiring you to think increasingly quickly to avoid being greeted by the Game Over screen.
That’s the classic mode, now referred to as Marathon, but Tetris Ultimate presents plenty of other choices. Basic modes continue to encompass Endless which is the same as Marathon but without a level limit, Sprint where you must clear 40 lines in the shortest time possible, and Ultra that challenges you to score as many points as you can within 3 minutes. The differentiation between one another may seem basic, but you’ll welcome the chance to test your brain and responsiveness in different ways.
This is extended by Battle and Battle Ultimate, squaring you off against opponents where by clearing lines you will endanger others by sending them to fill up their matrix. The Ultimate variant sprinkles power-ups such as Whirlpool, Clone and Carousel that shift Tetronimos, make them tumble, and copy them across to the other player’s matrix.
Competitive Tetris works well, so it’s great that these Basic and Battle modes can be played against others locally and online. In the online arena, players can choose between Quick Play, Friends Play and Community Play depending on whether you want to be matched with anyone worldwide, those on your Friend List, or any user-created community that you have joined. Finding matches is quick and painless, while leaderboards are a welcome addition – allowing you to compare your scores across each mode with others worldwide.
The Nintendo 3DS version is treated to exclusive Challenge Modes, although these are only playable solo. There are four to test yourself with, where Rotation Lock sees Tetronimos appear with fixed facings, Invisible making them disappear as they are locked in place, Escalation challenging you to clear an increasing number of lines to progress, and Master where they descend to the bottom of the matrix as soon as they emerge. Extra content’s always welcome.
While not strong enough to dethrone the triumphs achieved by Tetris DS, Tetris Ultimate is a comprehensive take on the classic that promises to occupy you for hours on end.