After buying Tetris for the fifth time, you’d wonder if it was really necessary. There should be a good enough reason to justify this apparently unnecessary expense, right? For me, it was all about the Xbox Live support. I have played Tetris hundreds of times in my life, and I even own the great Tetris game for the Nintendo DS, which does have online support. However, Tetris Evolution offers the chance of playing on a big screen against other people whose skills might be more or less on par with yours. Playing Tetris on the DS with just a bit above average skills is not any fun, there are too many people out there that play too well, and most people can’t stand a chance against them!
Tetris Evolution, developed by THQ, just like its predecessor game Tetris Worlds, has a bit more to offer than the previous installment. However, Tetris is Tetris, and there’s not that much room for innovation. Following the trend of other puzzle games in the market, Tetris Evolution focuses on offering a wide selection of avatars so the player can customize the game, along with background themes, images, and videos, plus the skins that go around the matrix, which is the vertical container where the gameplay happens. About 300 player avatars are available, which is a rather large amount. They have different topics, some of them are related to other videogames; you will also find “smilies” of different colors and face expressions, national flags, popular symbols, and much more. The amount of themes available for background and matrix customization is, on the other hand, rather limited. There are only a couple dozen to choose from. Of course, you can conveniently download more content from the Xbox Live Marketplace if you want to further invest in this new Tetris game.
Seven different modes appear on the menu screen that vary the purpose of your gameplay a little bit: Marathon (standard Tetris), Ultra (race against the clock), Cascade (when you clear a line the leftover pieces from above fall below and sometimes clear a new line), Race (clear a number of lines as soon as possible), Score (reach a specific score a.s.a.p.), Hotline (clear six special lines on the matrix for extra points), Go Low (your cleared lines are worth more points if you keep the gameplay at the bottom of the matrix), and Eraser (clear the special lines to go to the next level). We’ve seen most of these modes in Tetris Worlds and they are also fun to play, some more than others. I especially enjoy the Cascade mode. In addition to these, you can tweak the settings in several different ways: have a “ghost piece” guide you and show were the actual “tetrimino” (Tetris piece) is going to drop, start the game with a few lines already placed at the bottom, choose to start from more advanced levels instead of just Level 1, set the tetriminos to lock down so you can’t change their position after landing, or establish the target scores you need to achieve. Thanks to all this modalities, the gameplay could be never-ending. Nonetheless, the menu interface is not very user-friendly. In order to select your options, the look, or the game mode you’ll find yourself backtracking to the main menu so you can make your choices. This can be frustrating when you had already decided what kind of game you were going to play, but you can’t make your in-game theme or gameplay selections from that same screen. It’s just a bit confusing.
Playing on Xbox Live is a blast. It would certainly help if more gamers were online, ready to face you on a head-to-head match of up to four players. The most people I’ve played with are two, and you can’t have anybody within your household join the game. The online gameplay is meant for one player at home and up to four online; too bad. It seems like developers keep forgetting about those friends at home who want to play against others that are online. After all, Xbox Live doesn’t even allow you to use two headsets at the same time! One problem that I found while playing Tetris Evolution on Xbox Live is that when the host player quits the game, the whole game is over and nobody gets to finish the game or acquire any achievement points, unless they were gained before. In any case, most times you’ll play from the beginning to the end, so you shouldn’t be too afraid of gamers quitting early, although it does happen and that’s one of the reasons why playing any game online is not a perfect experience.
You can, of course, play multiplayer matches of up to four players right at home. You don’t need to be online to have a good time. Have your friends come over and engage in competitive battles with them in all the different modes available. If you prefer to remain good friends and not compete, just select the “Hotseat” co-op match. You’ll take turns to control the falling tetriminos. Playing independently at the same time on different matrixes is also an option, which is good when you both want to play at your own pace without worrying about each other.