There are games that just can’t be missing on any console… one of them is Tetris. With V-Tetris, the Virtual Boy has also got its obligatory Tetris variant – the only “real” one, since 3-D Tetris is a completely different game.
For everybody who doesn’t know Tetris (yes, such people are rumoured to exist ;), here’s a short description of the gameplay: Differently shaped bricks composed of 4 small blocks fall into a rectangular playing field, which is 10 columns wide. These have to be put together to get complete, 10-column wide rows. If you get complete rows, they disappear and you get points. Single but also 2, 3 or 4 rows at once are possible; 4 rows are called a “Tetris” and bring you a lot of points. The goal is to get as many points as possible, a simple but brilliant game concept!
V-Tetris offers the player 3 different game modes: the A, B and C mode. After you have decided on a mode, you also have to choose one of 3 different background musics, or you can simply pick “silence” to play without music. Now to the individual modes:
If you have decided on the A mode and have picked a background music, the next thing you have to choose is a level; 0 to 19 are available. The level determines the speed at which the bricks fall down. While these go down at such a snail’s pace on level 0 that you can easily get a coke without having to pause the game, the bricks fall to the ground so fast on level 19 that there is hardly time to rotate and place these properly. During the game, by the way, the level rises continuously, even higher than 19! Unfortunately, I can’t say whether there’s a limit or if the level theoretically rises up to infinity, because by level 25 at the latest, it is hardly possible to build up the bricks properly, and the higher the whole construction becomes, the more difficult it naturally becomes…
The A mode is basically the “endless mode” as it can be found in every Tetris game. In this one, you play as long as you can and try to get as many points as possible, while the level of difficulty rises continuously. In V-Tetris, you should focus on tetrises (clearing 4 rows at once), since they bring you relatively many points, compared to other Tetris games.
If you have decided on the B mode, before the game, you still have to adjust the level from 0 to 9 as well as the “round” from 0 to 5. As mentioned before, the level determines the speed of the blocks, but in this mode, there’s no level higher than 9. This is the fastest level and about as fast as the highest level in the A mode, 19. The option “round” refers to the height, which means that from the outset, blocks are already randomly located several rows high on the playing field; the higher the round, the higher the blocks. This mode consists of stages; in each stage, you have to clear away 25 lines. After each stage, the points achieved are then counted. For a highest possible score, it also applies here: focus on tetrises! Once you have played through a stage, the level increases by 1. Since level 9 is the highest level, this becomes set back to 0 after you’ve completed a stage on level 9, but in return, the round then increases by one. Consequently, there are 6 rounds with 10 levels each, so you have to play through 60 stages before you are rewarded with the credits. Incidentally, this equals at least 1500 lines! This calculation only applies, of course, if you start on level 0 and round 0, so if you start on level 9 and round 5, you only have to remove 25 lines to see the credits, but you will hardly make it to the top of the high score list that way.
As with the A mode, you have to choose a level between 0 and 19 before the game. The C mode is surely the most interesting of all, because in this one, you literally have to build around the corner! The playing field is, at first glance, the same as with the other modes, but with one exception: here, you can scroll the playing field around the left and right corners with the help of the shoulder buttons, L and R. When a row disappears at the edge of the screen, it reappears in the background, where you can see the rest of the playing field. Practically, the field is, thus, twice as wide. Lines that you clear in the foreground fall down again in the background. This only happens with single rows, though, so you should only try, if possible, to remove two, three or, at best (and worst), four lines at once. This VB-exclusive mode fascinates and encourages a game every now and then; although, always having to press the L and R buttons to scroll the playing field to the desired position is a bit annoying. Unfortunately, it is not possible to hold down one of the buttons to scroll further. It’s a shame, but only a small set back.
Before the game, there are also two sets of graphics to choose from. The first one has a moving background, the second one a fixed. The backgrounds range from an impressive castle with dragon (set 2), to falling leaves, up to stars passing by (both set 1). Every time you reach a higher level, the background changes as well. The graphics are sharp but hardly use the Virtual Boy’s 3-D capabilities. The playing field remains unchanged in 2D, only the backgrounds slightly draw attention to the fact that you are playing on a 3-D console. But to be honest, how much 3-D could you add to classical Tetris?
The sound is typical Tetris tootling – the music constantly playing in the background, without greatly attracting attention but also without getting on one’s nerves. Although, one must say that the three pieces of music are quite solid. The sound effects are appropriate, Tetris-typical sounds, as they are known from other versions of Tetris.
Most disappointing – and this is one of the few negative points, but probably the biggest one – is that there is no save option. A high score table does exist, but it isn’t saved. Hunting for points is really only fun if you can also save your records, is it not? Well, this pushes the gaming fun and the long-term factor down not inconsiderably, but nevertheless, this is a recommendable title for puzzle fans, especially since V-Tetris is one of the cheapest Virtual Boy games to be had.
V-Tetris is a technically suitable, solid Tetris game. With only 3 modes not too extensive, but nevertheless interesting because of the VB-exclusive C mode. Plus: it’s addictive!