In my Tetris 30th anniversary post I think I noted that Ubisoft was working on a new edition of the game to celebrate the occasion called Tetris Ultimate. Well, that game came out on 3DS a little while ago and I decided to take it for a spin since basically no major game website seems interested in it right now.
Versions for other platforms are coming soon but Ubisoft saw fit to put it on 3DS first. I don’t know why, but one could speculate a number of reasons. Maybe it felt Tetris is most widely-known as a portable game, and EA already has smartphone/tablet Tetris wrapped up. Maybe Ubisoft feels that way because of the legacy of the original Game Boy edition, or perhaps because of Tetris DS.
In mine and a lot of other people’s experience, the 2006 Tetris DS remains the sort of “definitive” version of Tetris. It combines really snappy controls with an art and sound direction unique to Nintendo which fits the game really well. Other versions of Tetris have come out since but none that definitively added enough to make people like me finally put Tetris DS aside. That’s the standard to which I’m comparing Ubisoft’s latest effort. Not only that, but if you want to buy this game on Nintendo eShop, there are already like four other Tetris games available, all of them cheaper.
I have to admit, Tetris Ultimate does take one aspect much further than I’ve ever seen for a Tetris game, and that includes the DS edition — customization. Tetris DS’s controls are very finely tuned: blocks slide at just the right speed, the hard drop works just as you’d like it to, everything is very responsive, and so-on. If you don’t like how Ultimate feels in comparison, you can tweak all that stuff through sliders: the responsiveness and smoothness with which blocks side left and right for instance. You can even switch through the rules as they’ve changed through all the various Tetris iterations. You can turn hard drop on or off, turn the ghost piece on or off, and even set how many moves you can make with a block after it’s reached the ground. Ultimate pretty much let’s you play Tetris however you want to, and that’s probably it’s greatest advantage over other editions.
Another really cool thing about Ultimate is its multiplayer mode let’s you compete against bots. I was able to find some opponents online but I have no idea how long this game’s community will last. If it does indeed die, you’ve at least got bots, which is more than I can say for too many multiplayer games these days. Plus, I really don’t know how many other Tetris games let you play against bots.
Those are the significant things setting Ultimate apart. Another big thing is the fact that it’s a Ubisoft game and that means it has to have all the “Ubisoft game” stuff in it. You know whenever you accomplish anything of any significance in Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry and those games immediately inundate you with updates about experience points you just earned, what level you just reached, or whatever other crap you just unlocked? All that’s in Tetris Ultimate. You have actual XP to earn and levels to reach in this game which unlocks other stuff. Do a lot of people still like that carrot-on-a-stick style game design? Do we even need it in a game like Tetris? It doesn’t really take away from the good game of Tetris buried underneath all the Ubisoft features though.
One odd thing that kind of get’s to me in Ubisoft’s Tetris though is its general art and sound design, which is definitely nowhere near the level of Tetris DS. Where Tetris DS is colorful with the true look of a Nintendo game, Ultimate has a sort of generic futuristic quality about it. It looks like a lot of other modern western Tetris iterations, like they didn’t really know what to do with everything surrounding the blocks. It’s actually kind of tough to describe because of how generic it is. It certainly doesn’t celebrate Tetris as a video game the way Tetris DS does. And the music in Ultimate feels oddly slow and calming. I guess that’s one preferred style for puzzle games as opposed to the frantic and upbeat tracks of Tetris DS and other puzzle games.
I hear a lot of people comparing Tetris Ultimate to this year’s Puyo Puyo Tetris from SEGA. I saw it for a bit at Otakon this year but don’t know much about it because it’s probably never getting released outside Japan. Some people blame Ubisoft’s Tetris license for western territories for that. I guess what it really comes down to is if Ultimate’s customization features really mean to you if there’s no other edition of the game that feels just right for you.
- This is the problem with Nickelodeon and Legend of Korra. http://t.co/Gdiew5SqMn