Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Tetris (Philips CD-i review)

Developer: Philips POV
Publisher: Philips Interactive Media
Released: 1992

Tetris is a puzzle game that was first released on the Elektronika 60 (1984) but rose to prominence on the Nintendo Game Boy (1989).


You can choose a starting level from 0-9 as well as the height of the blocks you'll inherit. You can also display the upcoming block shape or hide it completely for an extra challenge. The distinguishing feature of this CD-i version is the video backgrounds which include flowing waterfalls, deserts, meadows and woodland areas. They're a bit pixelated but do act as an incentive in terms of encouraging you to progress to see what other locations are available. The gameplay takes place in a vertical tile towards one side of the screen; it's very narrow and causes issues with lining up blocks and seeing exactly where they'll land. The control scheme is pretty much as you'd expect - use the d-pad to move blocks from side-to-side and press the 1 button to rotate them. It works well and is responsive. If you want to speed things up and push a block downwards (instead of waiting for it to fall manually) you have to press the 2 button. This replaces the intuitive action of pressing Down on the d-pad and it's easy to get confused between the two buttons. As a result there'll be moments where your game is sabotaged by accidentally dropping a block in the wrong place. You can also only rotate blocks in one direction which becomes a bigger issue when your stack of blocks near the top of the screen. When you manage to clear enough lines the action pauses and you're shown a graphic detailing the new level you've reached before things restart. It's jarring and breaks the gameplay up in an unnecessarily fashion. The New Age music is pleasant but doesn't fit with the hectic nature of later levels.

Tetris on the Philips CD-i is certainly unique but it has a few design quirks that hold it back. If the play-area was larger and the d-pad could be used to drop blocks this could have been a good variation on the puzzle classic; instead it falls flat and the multimedia novelty wears off quickly.



Random trivia: The game of Tetris has been used to treat people with certain medical conditions; this includes those with Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) as it was said to work better than eye patches!

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