Tetris Ultimate Review

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Title: Tetris Ultimate
Developer: Soma Play, Ubisoft 
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 148 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: No

Video games have been around for a long time.  I’m not the youngest gamer out there, but I’m not the oldest either.  Being 26 years old, I am as old as many games, but not all.  There are some older games that still have a few years on me, especially in the puzzle genre.  Among the genre, one game that is very famous in the gaming world that is all of 4 years older than myself, is Tetris.

Tetris has been around for 31 years and has reached almost every console in existence in that time, each time with a few new twists.  For the game’s 30th Anniversary, Ubisoft released an “Ultimate” version of the game, called Tetris Ultimate, last year.  It has taken many months, but that same game has finally come to the PlayStation Vita.  Without further delay, here is my official review of the Vita version of Tetris Ultimate!

Story

Due to this game not having a storyline, this section shall remain blank.

Gameplay

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Tetris is a puzzle game that needs no introduction in the gaming world.  The basics of Tetris show that you have colored blocks of various shape falling down a vertical slope.  Your job is to line these shapes up to create solid rows, at which time the row will disappear and you keep this going until things get so backed up that blocks cannot come down or you win the conditions of the game you’re playing, be it a score limit, time limit, or something else.

Tetris Ultimate mixes things up with different game modes.  In the game are 9 different ways to play Tetris, each with their own set of rules and regulations.  The game modes are as follows: Marathon, Battle, Sprint, Time’s Up, Battle Ultimate, Ultra, Endless, Landslide, and Haunted.  All of these games can be played solo, but many of them have the options of being Versus games against AI or online players or Co-op with a buddy rather than against a buddy.  Note that these game modes are the 6 original game modes plus all of the DLC Game Modes that the other versions of the game required you to pay for.

All of these modes shows the default gameplay of Tetris, but they all have their own strategy to them.  Marathon, for example, encourages longevity, requiring you to be able to do well at the game for a long period of time in order to get through all stages of the mode in order to unlock some of the later game modes.  Then you have modes like Sprint and Time’s Up, where you have to think and progress through as fast as you can, relying on quick reflexes to get you through a game.

The other modes, specifically the modes that have multiplayer in them, spice things up with power-ups and competitive features.  In these modes, you can gain rows for yourself and the better score you get, the more blocks automatically get added to your opponent’s field, making it that much harder for them to succeed.  The power-ups can make this worse by randomly throwing down the blocks and knocking off their balance.

The online multiplayer is something to be discussed as well.  You can activate the online features of Tetris Ultimate so you can play with friends.  First of all, the game does not support cross-play, so you’re only playing with other Vita owners.  Right now, that makes it a bit hard to find matches, as not many people own the game.  It took me a long time to find my first match and I have yet to find another since then.  The online community so far is very scarce.

Another thing to note about the online features is the trouble it can cause.  The online mode doesn’t always activate when you want it to.  I’ve had to initiate online mode several times before it actually initiated and signed me in for multiplayer.  Also, the game tries to sign you in as soon as you boot up the game.  I have found that this extends the initial load time a good deal, even without considering the fact that it doesn’t always sign you in accurately.

At the end of the day, though, you’re still playing Tetris the same way you always play it, no matter which game mode you’re in.  You could be playing it quickly, in a certain way, but you’re still block-matching from start to finish.  Since the only thing pushing you forward is a sense of difficulty, the game can get pretty repetitive if you try to do a lot of it in one sitting.  At the end of the day, it’s still the same puzzle game you played 30 years ago, but with different twists to affect how quickly you move about, and the twists don’t do anything to overwhelmingly break past the base gameplay.

The game’s length is what you make of it.  Unlocking all of the different game modes could take as little as a few hours.  If you really love Tetris, you could spend dozens of hours in the game.  Or, if you only like it a bit, you might spend less than a single hour with the game.  Since it is all gameplay-oriented with puzzle gameplay and no actual plot to speak of, it’s what you make of it.

Controls

Controlling Tetris Ultimate is pretty easy to do.  The menus can be navigated by the controls or the touch screen.  The touch controls end at the menus, though.  You won’t have to worry about using any of those types of controls as you’re shooting blocks down as you play through each game mode.

When you’re in a game, you can move the incoming blocks with the D-Pad and Left Analog Stick.  Pressing down will let them fall faster.  Left and Right will move them in those directions.  Finally, Up will auto-set the current piece and start sending the next one down.  Rotating the blocks can be done with the Right Analog Stick or the X and Circle buttons.  The L button doesn’t do anything in the game and the R trigger will exchange the current piece for the next piece.

The controls are pretty easy to get used to.  However, the game doesn’t do anything to tell you how to play the game or what controls do what.  If you’re new to Tetris, you will be learning from experience.  Even the separate game modes don’t tell you how they play out.  You just go with it as you play.  There is a hidden tutorial section in the Extras menu, this isn’t easy to find and is text-based.  There is no interact-able tutorial mode.  This will be fine for a Tetris veteran, but very difficult for newcomers.

Presentation

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The presentation is the biggest part of this game that users will want to know about.  The PS4 version of Tetris Ultimate was known for having a lot of loading and frame-rate issues.  Thankfully, Vita owners will not have to worry about any of this as you are about to become aware.

Visually, Tetris Ultimate looks good.  There’s nothing overly spectacular about Tetris, but all of the 2D models and animations look very crisp and clear.  There aren’t any jagged edges or blemishes on the models and the background music sets up a nice, calming atmosphere to help you concentrate on the puzzling gameplay.

The game plays very well, especially compared to its PS4 counterpart.  Aside from the initial loading sequence, Tetris Ultimate has virtually no load times at all.  You can go into the main menu and select Marathon Mode, and in less than a single second, you’ll already be at the menu to start a new game.  The game also doesn’t suffer from lag or frame-rate issues.  Whether you’re offline or online, the game plays very smooth and doesn’t have any sort of performance hindrances.

Summary

Tetris Ultimate is currently the only venue for Vita owners to experience the classic puzzle game.  On the downside, the online features can be hit and miss with logging you in, the game’s tutorial is well-hidden from newcomers, and it can easily become repetitive in long gaming sessions.  Past this is the most “Ultimate” version of this game, including the DLC for a few dollars less than you would have to pay for the PS4 version with its DLC. 

7/10

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  • Anthony Raymond Watt

    The music? Classic in there???

    • The music is somewhat of a remix of the normal Tetris music. It has a very calm and soothing sound to it as you play. That’s how I felt when I played anyways.

  • vongruetz .

    I’ve been playing Tetris a lot lately on my old gameboy as well as playing the mini on my PSTV. I’m fine with those versions and don’t see the need to upgrade.

    FYI, the Tetris mini is compatible with the PSTV (even if you can no longer buy it)

    • The fact that you can no longer buy it is the main reason I’d mentioned that this is the only current venue, lol.

      I remember looking for that Mini months ago and was sad when I saw it wasn’t there anymore. I’d always meant to get it but never got around to it.

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