The beloved game of Tetris has undergone an iOS retina display revolution. The screen may make the game look gorgeous, but I’m not sure how many will jump on the platform and take up the challenge of configuring the familiar tetriminos falling down the matrix on the iPhone platform.
The new EA game uses a control scheme called “One-Touch,” in which the tetrimino in play floats at the top of the screen, and four or five outlines of where the piece would be placed are displayed at the bottom of the screen. You choose which outline is the best match and make it so by tapping it. You can change the selection of tetriminos by selecting another group. You must decide within a timed period, or the piece will fall uniformly in the center of the pile of tetriminos, and that time gets shorter as you level up in the game.
There will, no doubt, be some Tetris fans who will dislike the new iPhone controls, but new platforms bring new functionality, which calls for innovative ways to update the game-play magic of old games that we old geeks know and love. The “Marathon” game mode is played with the same movement controls in mind as the old MS-DOS version of the game. But that’s where the similarity ends. Instead of using the number keys to control the right and left placement and rotating of the tetriminos, you use your fingers. The movement scheme is quite simple, and works well on the iPhone. You tap to rotate the pieces in ninety degree angled increments so as to create the proper direction in which to fit the piece on the matrix. Drag the piece with your finger and swipe to lock it in its place. I had been somewhat skeptical about the controls in the “Marathon” game mode. They make use of a larger complement of iOS finger controls to match the facility of the original number keys that easily manipulated Pause, Left, Right, Rotate, and Drop movements of the pieces. But using multiple finger movements felt like a much more organic Tetris experience, updated à la iOS.
The “Galaxy” mode contains various puzzles that are played in different “planets,” with different challenges to perform and more levels to reach. You reach the planet’s core by clearing what are known as Strata Lines, which awards you with virtual T-Coin currency. You can spend the T-Coins to make use of power-ups and buy more Planet levels. If you don’t keep earning enough points, you can purchase more T-Coins in increments from $0.99 to $99.99. The “T-Club” further offers you the option of paying $2.99 a month or $29.99 a year to access “15% more T-coins and lines.” This is the “value-added feature” that has caused the biggest kerfluffle in the circles of Tetris fans. This marketing move will either bring recurring revenue for Electronic Arts’ mobile division or lack of adoption and even alienation from the more traditional, core Tetris gamer base.
Logging into Origin will allow you to receive exclusive content for the game and, importantly, to automatically save your progress. However, if you do resume a game that you have played before, and have stopped for some reason, your progress will not be saved. This is one myopic marketing feature I found extremely irritating, and one that will undoubtedly cause umbrage in other Tetris users.
Ultimately, the best feature, and saving grace of the app is the “Marathon” game mode, whose game controls come the closest to replicating the experience of moving, jostling, and slamming in place the tetriminos we all know and love so much.