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CONSOLE: Virtual Boy DEVELOPER: Bullet-Proof Software PUBLISHER: Bullet-Proof Software
RELEASE DATE (JP): September 25, 1995 GENRE: Puzzle
// review by SoyBomb

Enjoy Tetris in two colours!

It's interesting to note that the Virtual Boy only had a library of 22 games in all. That's a very small number. Most gaming systems get far more than that, unless they're utter failures. Hmmm... well, considering the Virtual Boy pretty much WAS a failure, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But what I should be surprised at is the fact that even though there are only 22 Virtual Boy games, there is more than one Tetris game among them. Yeah, really. And if there was anything a supposedly "immersive" gaming system needed badly, it was multiple versions of Tetris. V-Tetris (short for Virtual Tetris, probably) came first; 3D Tetris followed in 1996 as the final official Virtual Boy game for North America... and forever. To make matters worse, V-Tetris doesn't really make much use of the "virtualness" to stand out as a unique Tetris experience; quite frankly, it could have been easily reproduced on any console. Even the puny Game Boy.

I imagine most people out there know what Tetris is and how the game is played. If you don't, you'd best crawl out from under that rock and start living, my friend. Tetris is, indeed, the legendary game from Russia (with love) where seven different shapes, known as tetrominoes, fall from the top of your playing field; you have to arrange them to form horizontal lines. Doing so will make that line disappear. You want to keep making as many lines as possible to get a high score. As you advance, however, the blocks will progressively drop more quickly, forcing you to act fast or suffer getting stacked to the top, ending your game. That's Tetris for you, the inexplicably addictive game that has received sequels and remakes more often than I've changed my own underwear.

V-Tetris has three different modes of play, cleverly titled A, B, and C. A Mode is the one we all know and love. You choose your initial level of difficulty, from 0 to 19, where 0 has the game moving as slow as molasses (suitable for the Tetris beginner) up to 19, where illegal drugs may be required to succeed. Then, you just play infinitely until the game moves too quickly for you and your pile of tetrominoes reaches the top of the playing field. In B Mode, you select your preferred level (0 to 9 in this case); you'll also get to pick a different "option" level, between 0 and 5. The reason for the "option" becomes immediately apparent when you begin playing: chunks of blocks will already been in your field, so you'll have to try and eliminate those as well. Your goal is to remove 25 lines before moving on to the next level. You won't be able to play past level 9 speed; trying to do so will reset the difficulty level back to 0, but the option level will increase.


It's Tetris. What did you expect?

And then there's C Mode, something that tries to be clever but could have been much more. After selecting your difficulty level, you are presented with your playing field. But unlike typical Tetris games, this one wraps around a simulated cylindrical field where you can place blocks all the way around it. You're still making lines, although only in the space visible within the foreground. To make matters worse, any line you remove from the foreground will suddenly plop into the area on the other side of the playing field! But it's not really 3D: you tap the shoulder buttons and the faux cylinder moves one step left or right. You can see what's on the other side through a transparent wall, but there isn't much in terms of visual depth here. Considering the Virtual Boy's capabilities, this could have made much better use of the hardware.

V-Tetris doesn't exactly shine in the frills department. You can choose between two different backgrounds for your Tetris experience, which I suppose is nice. But, as I mentioned earlier, V-Tetris really doesn't make use of the Virtual Boy's capabilities to differentiate it from the rest of the clones. Why would I want to play Tetris on an awkward handheld console that I have to stop using every 15 minutes lest I wish to go blind when I can simply go to another console and play the same thing? Music is there as well, with the option of choosing between a few different chirpy tunes to keep you pumped and motivated a bit.

Had V-Tetris done something outstanding, I might be inclined to recommend it to those who actually own a Virtual Boy. The C Mode was somewhat original at the time, but aside from that little inclusion, it's just Tetris, plain and simple... in red. If you want Tetris, just play any other version of Tetris. Unless it's virtual Tetris you're looking for, of course. But for most of us, I doubt looking at a red and black screen is the ideal experience.


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