(Tengen version)

The famous Tetris, created by Russian programmer Alexei Pazhitnov in the mid 1980's and since ported to just about every platform out there.  It is perhaps best known in its Game Boy incarnation, which was instrumental in rocketing the handheld to the extreme popularity it holds to this day. 

Two versions of Tetris were made for the NES; one by Nintendo, and the other by Tengen, a company that had created several unlicensed NES titles, including the RBI Baseball series and Ms. Pac Man.  However, due to a comedy of attempted thefts and rights being sold by those who didn't legally own them, a court battle between Nintendo and Tengen ensued, with Nintendo coming out the victor.  As a result, Tengen's version of Tetris quickly faded from the shelves.


The premise of Tetris is simple.  You need only to lay down blocks in a way that causes them to complete a full row on the screen.  When that happens, the row disappears and you earn points.  If you managed to clear two, three, or four rows at a time, you get bonus points for your Double, Triple, or Tetris.  However, if at any point the stack of blocks reaches the top of the screen, the game ends.  The core gameplay of Tetris remains the same throughout all versions of the game, but Tengen's version featured a few ideas not seen in most versions.

First, and most notable, is the two-player mode, a major feature omitted from Nintendo's NES version (though it was a major selling point for the Game Boy game).  This would pit one player against another.  Every time a player was the first to clear 30 lines, a small sequence would play where the points for Singles, Doubles, Triples and Tetrises would be tallied and added to the player's score.  This mode continued until both players' screens were filled to the top, at which point the winner would be the player with the highest score.  Just to ensure a fair match, both players would receive the same blocks in the same order.  The 'Versus Computer' option was identical, save for the fact that the computer would play on the other field.

The computer doesn't make for a very impressive opponent, though

More impressive, however, is the Cooperative mode, where both players (or the computer and one player) play on one field, each controlling a seperate piece at once.  A fair amount of work was required of both players to prevent their strategies from clashing; with two pieces falling at once, one player could only move their block within the range that the other player's block allowed, and situations where two blocks could fit into the same place are very common.  Another definite plus over Nintendo's Tetris.

An estimated 100,000 copies of Tengen's Tetris were sold.  While well below par for the average NES game, it's still far from impossible to find this title.  It is commonly passed back and forth on eBay and similar sites, with prices ranging anywhere from $20-40 for just the cartridge, to $70 or more for a complete boxed copy.

Rating: 8/10
One-line synopsis: Regardless of form, Tetris is a solid game, and Tengen's Tetris is easily the better of the two on the console.

©2005 Spoony