Tetris Attack
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • US August 1996
    • JP 11/03/1996
    • UK 11/28/1996
Score: 85%

This review was published on 07/27/2013.

Tetris Attack is a puzzle game developed by Nintendo and originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy in 1996. The Game Boy is a stripped down version of the SNES game, so I'll be primarily focusing this review on the SNES one. Despite having Tetris in the title, this game has little to do with Tetris. It does use feature a similar structure to Tetris, and does involve blocks, but the actual mechanics are completely different. What's really odd about this game is that it was first released in Japan on the Super Famicom under the title Panel de Pon. That version of the game featured a bunch of magical girl characters, the kind of thing you'd expect to see out of an anime. Nintendo probably thought that wouldn't be appropriate for a Western release, so they changed the game to feature characters from Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island instead. I suppose that makes sense, but still, why doesn't the game's title reflect this? You'd have no idea this game had anything to do with Yoshi until you play it, because not even the box has Yoshi on the cover. In any case, Tetris Attack is one of the best puzzle games on the SNES.

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In the North American and European versions of the game, Yoshi is the star of the show. The game takes place on Yoshi's Island, home of the Yoshi folk. Yoshi was going about his daily business when, one day, something bad happened. Bowser, giant lizard king of lizards and the antagonist of the Mario series, causes trouble for the denizens of Yoshi's Island. The oversized lizard casts a terrible curse on all of Yoshi's friends, turning them into his minions. Yoshi is the only one unaffected by the curse, so it's up to him to stop the dastardly deeds of the devious king. In order to avert this terrible crisis, Yoshi must play a fun puzzle game. Wait, what? Yeah, it doesn't make much sense, but plots to puzzle games rarely do. Yoshi must challenge and beat all of his friends to a block shifting puzzle game to break the curse's hold over their minds. Once Yoshi breaks the curse on all his friends, they form a massive team to storm Bowser's fortress and deal with the Godzilla impersonator once and for all. If you're wondering, the plot for the original Japanese version of the game involved fairies fending off a similar curse. In the end, none of this stuff matters, as puzzle games like these don't really need stories. Tetris proved that.

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Blocks are the name of the game in Tetris Attack. You've got a screen full of blocks, similar to regular Tetris, but there are a lot of key differences. For one, blocks don't normally fall from the top of the screen. Instead, the blocks are on a stack that slowly rises over time to reveal more blocks underneath. You control a cursor with the digital pad that can shift two blocks around horizontally. If you feel that things are moving along too slowly, then you can speed up the rate at which the blocks rise by pressing a button, kind of like how you could make blocks in Tetris fall faster. Blocks can be destroyed by matching three or more either vertically or horizontally, but not diagonally. Getting four or more matched up will give you various bonus effects depending on the mode you're playing on. It's also possible to get chains if you're very clever. The method to getting chains involves creating a situation where one set of blocks being destroyed will eventually lead to another set of blocks being destroyed. This works because blocks will fall down whenever stuff from beneath them get destroyed, so if they fall into the right places, it'll create a chain that can go on for a long time. Chains are the preferred way to clear blocks, as they grant the best bonuses in every mode of play. They're also the most difficult to pull off, though. Blocks will momentarily stop rising whenever you get more than three cleared at a time or get any chains, which is something that becomes very important on the higher speeds. It goes without saying that you lose if the screen completely fills up with blocks, pretty much exactly like Tetris. Tetris Attack has incredibly simple mechanics that just about anyone can get into, but they have enough depth to hold your interest.

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You have quite a few modes to pick from in Tetris Attack. The first mode is Endless Mode, which plays a lot like the standard Tetris game. As its name implies, this mode is endless. You play until you lose, and then your total score is shown. The catch is that this mode gets harder as you play it, making it more difficult to stay in the game the more you stay in the game. Eventually, the speed will get so fast that it'll be almost impossible to keep up, but that's kind of the point. They don't call this endless for nothing. It's a good way to practice, but like most modes of this sort, it gets old fast. A variation of this mode is Time Trial, which is basically the same thing, except you have a timer of exactly two minutes. Why is it two minutes? I haven't the foggiest. The objective of Time Trial is that there is none. It's just a way to see how high of a score you can get in two minutes. Where things start to get interesting is in the Stage Clear mode. This one has you progressing through several different stages as you attempt to clear a certain amount of blocks. All you have to do to clear the stage is get the blocks under a dotted line that appears after a while. The later stages get harder, obviously, as the line takes longer to appear. There are five levels per stage and six stages in all, so this mode can last you for a good while. Perhaps the most interesting mode in the game is the Puzzle mode. This is a puzzle game, after all. This mode changes the rules up on you a bit. For Puzzle mode, your aim is to solve actual puzzles. What you have to do is clear all the blocks within the specified amount of moves, kind of like those chess puzzles. If you take too many moves, then you lose. Puzzle mode is more about careful thought than speed, and it's very interesting. There are a ton of puzzles to solve, probably more than is necessary. All in all, Tetris Attack has enough modes to keep you occupied for a long time.

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VS Mode is where the real excitement lies in Tetris Attack. This is like the main story mode of the game. Many of the rules from previous modes still apply here, but the big difference with this mode is that you're faced with an opponent. You and your opponent will have to clear blocks on separate sides of the screen, but the only way to win is by making the opponent lose. Like before, losing consists of a screen that gets filled with too many blocks. The kicker is that you can hinder or be hindered by your opponent whenever more than three blocks are cleared at a time. Creating chains and stuff will send garbage blocks to the opponent's side of the screen. These blocks are more difficult to clear than regular blocks, as they first need to be broken down into smaller pieces before they can be cleared. Naturally, your opponent can do the same thing to you. Battles can get really intense, especially if both players are good at the game. The standard story mode has you battling a bunch of computer controlled opponents of varying difficulty, eventually culminating in a battle with Bowser himself. Bowser is really difficult, especially if you play on a high difficulty setting. Beating the Koopa King is pretty satisfying, if you can manage it. But wait, there's more! You can play VS Mode with a second human being for a competitive two player battle. As much as the game already has to offer, this is the cream of the crop right here. The two player mode of this game essentially extends its replay value to infinity, providing an endless amount of entertainment. Tetris Attack's formula lends itself really well to two player matches, almost as if it was a perfect match.

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Tetris Attack is an awesome puzzle game. It's wildly regarded as the best on SNES by many fans, and for good reason. The mechanics are a fantastic blend of speed and brain power. You need to think, but you have to teach yourself to think fast, or else suffer the consequences. It's kind of like learning to solve Math problems quickly, except you're matching blocks of the same color. The multiplayer is also spectacular. Many gamers still heavily play the game today for its extremely fun multiplayer mode. Tetris Attack is one of the best games in its genre, no doubt about it. Personally, I would even go as far as to say that it surpasses the original Tetris, but many wouldn't agree with me. If you're not into these kinds of puzzle games, though, then Tetris Attack may not be for you. I do recommend you try it, however, as it's excellent. You don't have to settle for the SNES version, either. The game is available on newer platforms, like the Nintendo DS, under the title of Planet Puzzle League. Regardless of which platform you choose, definitely try this game if you haven't already.

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