Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Mass Media
Release Date: 3/19/07
I think it’s safe to say that Tetris ranks as one of the best games ever created, or at least one of the most influential with its simplistically irresistible gameplay that paved the way for the whole “falling-block” puzzle game genre. Over the years, Tetris has been re-released and enhanced as the console and handheld generations have come and gone, and now with the next-gen era upon us it’s only fitting that this classic puzzle franchise gets a hi-def face lift. Well that’s just what THQ has done with Tetris Evolution for the Xbox 360, but unfortunately with a misguided pricing plan and an overall lack of creative enthusiasm there is hardly anything evolutionary about this game.
Nothing much has changed with Tetris Evolution. Tetriminos still fall from the top of the screen in the familiar shapes and colors, and it’s still your job to align the blocks into horizontal rows and to clear them from the play area before the screen fills up to the top. What is new in this “evolved” form of Tetris is a fleshed out single-player mode with a whopping eight different play modes, including Ultra, Cascade, Race, Score, Hotline, Go Low and Marathon. Disappointingly, the roster of modes sounds more compelling in print than it actually is when played, as each mode type merely adds a very subtle stipulation — such as a time limit or designated score goal — that really doesn’t alter how you approach the game from mode to mode. Sticking with the traditional Marathon play style is still the most addictive option, leaving the other seven modes feeling somewhat pointless unless you want to hunt down all of the game’s skill-based achievements.
Thankfully, Tetris Evolution does make up for some of its single-player faults with an enjoyable suite of multiplayer modes. Up to four players can compete or team up cooperatively locally offline on one console or online over Xbox Live in the aforementioned eight gameplay modes. Like the solo play though, you’ll still find yourself only interested in playing Marathon matches online over the others, but either way it’s fun to test your Tetris skills against other human players.
Clearly inspired by the Lumines games, new customization options have been introduced for Tetris Evolution, including background themes, skins, player icons and soundtracks, and the Tetriminos have been given a shiny coat of HD paint. Sadly, however, the game both looks and sounds completely generic, with background videos and pictures that look like nothing more than screensavers and desktop backgrounds copied over from a PC, and cheesy rock, pop and techno tracks pulsing alongside the action. The remixed Tetris theme music is pretty sweet at least!
Contrary to its name, Tetris Evolution really doesn’t do anything to evolve the Tetris brand of puzzle action. Despite online play, a bunch of too-similar play modes and some basic customization features, this is the same Tetris that’s been around for over two decades now. While that certainly isn’t a terrible thing given the addictive nature of the timeless Tetris gameplay, it’s still hard to get excited about playing a game that has been stretched thin with releases on nearly every platform since it first came into existence and really hasn’t changed over any of its iterations. Compounding this problem, THQ for one reason or another decided to release this at traditional retail at a $29.99 price point when it clearly should’ve been launched as an Xbox Live Arcade title for far cheaper. At its current price I honestly can’t say that Tetris Evolution is worth purchasing unless you are a total Tetris nut searching for some online competition. But ultimately the game is still fun at least, and makes for a decent rental to puzzle around with over a rainy weekend.