News hit this week that Electronic Arts is letting go of mobile Tetris. Another company, N3TWORK, already has a new version up for iOS and Android, which got me thinking again about people’s definitive choices for Tetris versions might be these days. I asked this back in 2014 for the game’s 30th anniversary and I still don’t really know.
I checked out N3TWORK’s version for a minute and was mainly just disappointed by the lack of controller compatibility, since you can just connect a PlayStation or Xbox controller to iOS devices now. It’s also pretty bare-bones right now — with just a standard endless mode as of this writing. This is clearly just an initial foundation N3TWORK intends to build on going forward.
To be fair, this new version is about as good as touch screen controls can probably get for Tetris. The controls are responsive, I like how it uses haptics on iOS, it’s probably going to be good enough for most people. Getting from your home screen right into a game only takes a few seconds too (minus the ads which support the free version). I just hope N3TWORK’s future plans include controller support, because touch screen controls will probably never be good enough for me.
That brings me back to the question of what the “definitive” version of Tetris should be for portable devices. For a long time it was Tetris DS. If you don’t wanna dig out a DS or 3DS anymore though, I guess that just leaves smartphones and the Nintendo Switch. The closest thing the Switch has to a prominent Tetris game I believe is Puyo Puyo Tetris, wherein you can set up modes where you only play Tetris without having to worry about the Puyo gameplay.
Computer and TV devices are where things have gotten a little more complicated.
Tetris Effect on PlayStation 4 and Windows is getting the most attention right now. It’s probably great as an audiovisual showpiece and a unique spin on progression in Tetris, and I’ll probably buy it for my main PC at some point.
A while ago Digital Foundry over at Eurogamer actually did an in-depth video on the history of Tetris conversions and comparing what they believe to be the best ones. A big part of that was the Tetris Grand Master series — a series of arcade games specifically made for expert players. They focus on harder difficulty modes and are supposed to have the most precise controls and best feature sets of any Tetris game. Unfortunately almost all of them are only available in arcades. I think one is on Xbox 360 but I don’t even know if that one is available in English.
In any case the other aforementioned options are probably better for mainstream players. When I started seriously looking up the best versions of Tetris though I found out there are actually clones all over the place. I don’t know if these clones are legal but there apparently seems to be some loophole where developers can distribute their own versions of Tetris with the exact same gameplay, as long as they don’t use the word Tetris anywhere.
I settled on one called “NullpoMino”, which seems to be one of the most well-received unofficial versions of Tetris. Open-source and based on Java, it includes features from Grand Master among a massive host of customization options I’ll probably never use, but I like it because it’s a quick and lightweight conversion with precise controls. I haven’t figured out how to get it to work with a controller yet, but it boots up fast and has excellent keyboard controls. It isn’t flashy at all, but it gets the job done on my laptop. It’d be great if something like it, Grand Master, or Tetris DS was on Switch.
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