Funny thing about Tetris Attack: It has absolutely nothing to do with Tetris! Yet this small snag does not stop it from being one the best puzzle games on the system! There is just something so addictive, so FUN about this game that you will not be able to stop playing it. Forget Street Fighter 2 Turbo, THIS was the multiplayer game I played the most! But enough of my gushing! You are probably ready to hear about the game, and what makes it so good.
Tetris Attack began its existence as Panel de Pon, a Japanese exclusive puzzler released on the Super Famicom in 1995. Fearing that western audiences would not ‘get’ a puzzle game featuring cutesy little fairy girls, developer Intelligent Systems decided to put a Yoshi skin and story on the game and licensed the name from the Tetris company, a move they are later said to have regretted. About one year later, Tetris Attack was reborn in North America!
So what’s so great about it? As a game concept you couldn’t get much simpler. You move the colored panels side by side to match up three or more. When this happens, the blocks disappear. The goal in doing this will vary greatly depending on what type of game you are playing. And that is Tetris Attack’s greatest strength. Within this puzzle package is a little something for everyone! Do you like traditional puzzles? Try Puzzle Mode which offers sixty puzzles that task you with clearing the board with a limited set of moves. This is my favorite single player mode, and it really makes you think in ways you never consider in the other modes of play. Or perhaps you prefer the pressure of a limited amount of time ala Tetris? Try Level Mode which plays the game through six rounds as the speed steadily increases. Finally there is versus mode, which is the meat of the game. Here Yoshi embarks on a quest to save his friends and defeat the evil Bowser. In this mode, the blocks you get rid of become lump blocks on your opponent’s side, which are tougher to get rid of. The more blocks you can get rid of in one move, the bigger the lump box is. It sounds simple, but it is surprisingly deep and addictive. The enemies later on get downright devious, and that is not even counting the insanely fast and furious battles with Bowser which I have still yet to conquer.
The multiplayer versus is identical to the single-player, and the one I spent countless college nights playing with others. Trust me when I say delivering a massive garbage block to an opponent as they are moments away from losing is one of the SNES’s greatest moments. As good as the single player experience can be, I always had more fun with others during versus action. A.I. can never equal the thrill of besting a friend (or enemy). Here’s something you can no longer do in the online-centric world of modern gaming: Next time your opponent is gloating and running his mouth, unplug his controller when they’re not looking! That’ll teach em!
Tetris Attack also scores major points by being one of the few puzzle games that pays attention to details outside of gameplay. How many puzzle games can honestly claim to be synonymous with the word gorgeous? Tetris is hauntingly addictive, but to describe it as anything beyond visually functional would be a bit of a stretch. By contrast, Tetris Attack’s background boards are colorful, vibrant, and full of character. Each one has a distinctive feel, and there is always something going on in the background that threatens to distract you.
The music is also a strong point. I love how it starts with a calm melody, then changes as the board fills up to become more frantic to match the pace. You can FEEL the music speeding up to match your thinking as you try to avoid a game over. I also like the little touches like providing unique sound effects depending on the board. For instance, if you score a combo on the Frog’s board, you will hear him ribbet. Things like these provide a tactile vibe to the game that all good puzzle games provide.
With numerous game modes, multiplayer ability, stellar graphics and sound, this game comes standard with all the polish and care you expect out of Nintendo. It even has secrets like a hidden difficulty setting and an extra round of puzzles in the puzzle mode! As a side note, I have also played Panel de Pon, and aside from the Yoshi face-lift, it has the same care as its North American twin. Just swap Yoshi’s Island characters for fairy girls and monsters. Whichever version you play, remember to turn it off and get some sleep once in a while … you’ll play better.
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