The Problem with Perfection, or Why Tetris Sequels Stink

Tetris for the original Game Boy is one of the video game industry’s most romantic and well told success stories with good reason. It has a touch of the exotic thanks to its Russian setting, it has that James Bond flavour courtesy of the KGB’s involvement, and above all else it has a perfect game released for the perfect console at the perfect time in order to become a sensation.tetris gameboy

As is the norm within any organisation in the entertainment industry with a huge hit on it’s hands, sequels were inevitable. Normally, this is not a problem as sequels in video games fare better than their cinematic counterparts; the rule of diminishing returns seems inverted here, just ask Capcom about their sequel to Street Fighter or Activision about making iteratively tedious FPS war games. But Tetris presents an unusual problem: how do you improve on perfection?

The easy (and logical) answer is that you simply can’t – but that didn’t stop developers from trying over and over again. And again. Let’s have a look at the original Game Boy version and dissect the reasons behind the repeated failure of the sequels to capture the green and black magic.

By the way, here is not the place to be considering all those titles that just added ‘tris’ to their names in order to attract some more attention (I’m looking at you, Welltris, you hussy).

Looks

This game looks simply beautiful. To say that the Game Boy’s screen was limited is a gross understatement, but Tetris actually looks better in four shades of green. Any attempt to add colour has just made Tetris more gaudy.

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The blocks don’t need to be different colours to help you differentiate them, so subtle shading differences win as far as I’m concerned. They also remind me of the old paint packages like Degas Elite on the ST and Amiga, so that’s a double win.

Controls

Move a piece, rotate it one of two ways and plonk it down. Two buttons and a d-pad. You need nothing more. Except maybe a pause button if feeding your kids or not getting run over are important to you, but you can certainly keep your touch controls and ‘store a block’ shoulder button.

Portability and Game Modes

Haven’t got time for a full marathon mode slog to level 9? GB Tetrishas got your back. Just switch to mode B and set yourself a challenge of clearing 10 lines of garbage before your train arrives, or see if you can complete a round at full speed using only four line Tetrises (only ninjas need apply). I don’t need battle, Push or One Touch modes and you can stick your Twitter integration where the trends don’t shine #thankyouverymuch.

So what’s the answer, then? Not release a sequel in the first place? That’s a viable option. @Notch certainly won’t be releasing a Minecraft sequel any time soon. Have you seen what he’s working on now? It’s exciting, and if you like Elite and/or 16-bit processor architecture (and who doesn’t?) you need to check that out. Stop reading this piffle and click here. See? That’s hardly Minecraft 2, is it?

Money-grabbing toss-merchants are never going to stop being money-grabbing toss-merchants though, are they? So maybe the best thing to do is ignore all the shiny, ‘upgraded’ Tetris games and dig out the old dirty brick and play the perfect one. I might go and do just that right now.

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