Tetris & Dr. Mario delivers on what it promises; 16-bit versions of both Tetris and Dr. Mario on the same cartridge. While compilation style games are very common today, having multiple games on the same cartridge was relatively new when the game was released in 1994. In 2013 both of these games are readily available on a multitude of platforms (especially Tetris). Are the SNES versions worth your time? Read on to find out!
In Tetris & Dr. Mario, players can choose between playing Tetris, Dr. Mario or a Mixed Match. Both Tetris and Dr. Mario offer single player, competitive two player and vs. computer modes. Mixed Match allows two players to compete in a match that alternates between Tetris and Dr. Mario.
While it’s fair to assume that just about everyone has tried Tetris in 2013, this review will present a quick primer. In Tetris, players rotate 6 unique shapes, each made of four squares in an attempt to form a solid line at the bottom of the screen. One piece falls at a time and once the bottom of the piece touches the top of another piece or the bottom of the screen, it becomes locked into place and the next piece falls. When pieces combine to form a solid horizontal line, the line is cleared from the playfield. If your stack of pieces reaches the top of the screen, it’s game over.
Tetris offers both Type-A and Type-B modes. In Type-A, players advance in level as more and more lines are cleared. Each level increases the game speed, upping the challenge in the process. Type-A games continue until the player loses, with the main goal being to achieve the highest score possible. Type-B games require the player to clear a set number of lines, after which the game ends. The game adds a competitive twist in two-player and vs. computer mode by rewarding the player and punishing their opponent when multiple lines are cleared simultaneously. Clearing multiple lines results in blocks being added to the opponent’s screen, putting their stack closer to the top.
The fun factor of Tetris cannot be understated. Whether setting a high score in single player mode or bombarding your opponent with blocks in multiplayer, the game is simply a blast. Playing the game has an almost a therapeutic quality to it, as it is easy to get sucked into “the zone” as you rotate piece after piece, putting everything in its proper place.
Originally released on the NES, Dr. Mario involves stacking coloured pills on top of coloured viruses. Each pill contains two colours, a combination of red, yellow and blue, and can be rotated horizontally or vertically. When three like-colours are placed on top of a virus, the virus dies and any leftover pill parts fall to the ground. With skill, one can set-up combos using these falling leftovers and rack up a higher and higher score. Two-player Dr. Mario involves a race to see which player can clear their screen of viruses first. Like Tetris, players can sabotage each other, this time by sending pill parts to their opponents screen after a successful combo. While lots of fun, Dr. Mario doesn’t quite reach the same level of greatness as Tetris.
Both games are extremely simple to control, requiring only the D-pad and a single button to rotate the Tetris-piece or pill. This simplicity gives both games a great pick-up and play quality. One can easily jump in and start having fun immediately. These games also have an addictive quality to them and one game can easily turn into ten games if you’ve got the time on your hands.
On the negative side, the cartridge lacks a save battery to keep your high scores. This is the game’s biggest shortcoming, as setting a high score is one of the main motivations for mastering a puzzle game. Outside of Mixed Match, which is fun with a friend, there aren’t really any extras to speak of. The core games are both fantastic, but it would have been nice to have some special challenges added.
In a word, disappointing. While the graphics are bright and colourful, their level of detail is lacking. Nintendo opted to stick with a generic Russian theme for Tetris, instead of using some of their well-known characters and properties (as other Nintendo-published versions of Tetris have done). Dr. Mario is the better-looking game of the two, but not by much. Both games barely meet the minimum graphical quality of what one would expect for a late release SNES game.
On the audio side, the games feature solid, if unremarkable, 16-bit updates to their classic themes. It would have been nice to have a few new tracks added, as the ones included can get repetitive.
Tetris is a bona fide classic and considered by many to be one of, if not the greatest game of all time. While Dr. Mario isn’t nearly as popular, it’s still a fun and addictive puzzler that can suck hours from your life, if you let it. While a few shortcomings, most notably the lack of a save battery and mediocre presentation, hold this game back from perfection, at the end of the day you can’t beat having two top-notch puzzlers on the same cartridge. This game sold very well in its time, and the original cartridges are widely available, often for $10 or less. At that price, this game deserves a spot in your collection.
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