The game from Hell is back...

Super Tetris logo

MICROPROSE * £29.99 * 1 meg * Keyboard * Out now

A puzzle for you. Do you know who invented Tetris? No, it wasn't Keith Chegwin, although you're quite close. I'll tell you. It was the Devil. Yes, Tetris is Satan's computer game. It's a brainwashing device, designed to turn the people of Earth into drooling techno-zombies. And, God help me, I love it.

You see, Tetris is full of Satanic messages. And we can prove it. We videotaped a game of Tetris, and then played it backwards. And there it was, in Morse code. "Worship Satan" it said. "Hey Kids! Fancy going to a party round at Satan's house?". Stuff like that. Gulp.Ever since, Biff's taken to spinning round violently, cursing at priests in Latin and spewing pea soup everywhere. Some things never change, eh?

So, Microprose have joined up with the Dark One and brought "that game" to the Amiga once more. And this time it's Super, apparently. Let's fill up on holy water and take a closer look...

First of all, who doesn't know what Tetris is about? Just you, eh? You must be a bit of a sad case. Well, just for you, I'll explain it. Take a look at the screenshots, as this will help you visualise what I'm on about.

You've got a "pit", and different shaped blocks tumble from the top. By rotating them, you've got to make complete lines in the pit. Each complete line vanishes, thus leaving you more room. Each incomplete line remains where it is, and clogs up your pit. If the blocks reach the top, it's game over. And that's it.

Now, on Super Tetris things are a bit different. We've got some new features to talk about. Sol let's go through them one by one.

For a start the pit starts half full of blocks. You've got to clear this 'rubble' to progress to the next level. The trouble is, you've only got a limited number of blocks per level. For each line you complete, you get two bombs. These can be used to blast away your cock-ups, or to collect treasure. Which leads us on to...

The treasures. These nestle in among the rubble and can be collected by hitting them with bombs. The bonuses range from extra pieces, destroying a whole line or giving you one of those elusive and ever so handy long blocks.

You've got a two-player option where you can either play against or with your friend. You can also link up two Amigas and play that way. There's a timed game where you've got to finish each level in under a set time.

Perhaps the most bizarre addition is the Save Game option, that lets you load up your old games and carry on where you left off. Spooky.

So that's what's "Super" about this new version of Tetris. Is it worth it? Erm, to be honest the answer is no. Tetris has been around for yonks and you can pick up a perfectly adequate version of it from any good PD library. In fact, I do believe we've given you a version of it on the CoverDisk not so long ago. As have most computer magazines.

The problem isn't that Super Tetris is a bad game, it's not. It's just that it's vastly overpriced, and the new changes don't justify the price. I'd even put money on the fact that in about three months you'll be able to get a PD Tetris with the same features, probably called Super Twonktrix or something.

This is a tricky review. As you can see, it scores highly one all counts as it's technically a good game. I enjoyed it, but then I got it for free. With that in mind, the overall mark has been chopped down because of the extremely dubious value for money. Just thought I'd explained that. You've probably already got Tetris anyway. Don't bother.

Super Tetris logo

There's a saying in old Russia. Roughly translated, it goes something like: "A man playing Tetris cannot be expected to plough his field, even if it's about to rain". Quite what this means no one's really sure, but the fact is that it remains one of the simplest and yet widely played games since - er, that other simple, widely played game.

Now Spectrum Holobyte have fiddled about with it, tarted it up somewhat and MicroProse have released a new version under the grand name of Super Tetris. But the question is, is it super? Well...

A nice cup of Tetris
Everyone knows how the game works. (If you don't, have a look at 'Tetris through the ages' at the bottom of this page, but hurry up). This super clone is, as you might expect, quite similar. This time, though, the pit has two halves. The bottom half is filled with rubble and treasures, while the top half is normal.

Pieces fall as usual and you do your damnedest to fit them in. When you do, the line disappears and instead of a piece falling next, a number of bombs appear - the number depends on how many lines you've just cleared. These can be moved and rotated as normal. When they hit part of a stacked piece, they explode (as bombs do) and destroy it. Thus they can be used to clear away your mistakes and reopen gaps you may have covered.

Now, say you've just cleared a line in the bottom half of the pit. (Go on, say it). Instead of the pieces moving down to fill up the gap, they scroll upwards from the bottom, revealing part of a picture. To win the level, you need to clear all the bottom-half lines to completely expose the picture.

That's not all. Buried in the bottom half are treasures, which, when they are hit with the bombs, do wonderful things, such as clear entire lines, or turn the next piece into a bomb, or add more pieces to your total remaining. You only have a set number of pieces to complete each level with - use them all up and it's sadly back to the options screen with the attractive picture of the tiger and of course the wibbly music.

There are other complications if you want them. You can impose a time limit on yourself if you're stupid, or play with someone else in cooperative mode (the pit gets wider and two pieces fall at the same time) or in competitive mode (lose your friends the easy way). There's also a rather ambitious, but pointless, head-to-head mode, whereby two Amigas are linked and the players compete against each other for the best score.

Let's be totally honest here, just for one moment. The original Tetris game got (whispers) just a little bit boring after a few intensive plays, didn't it? This however goes some way towards rectifying that. Just dividing the pit into two makes the game almost twice as hard - every line that you complete in the top half does nothing at all towards finishing the level.

The bombs are an absolute godsend for clearing up all of your unforced errors and when they're used in conjunction with the treasures the game is turned into something completely different.

Two packets of Tetris please
You're still going to get bored after prolonged play, though, unless this sort of intensive and intuitive mind-work is your bag. It's unlikely that even the best player could survive for more than 20 seconds on levels eight and upwards, so the game effectively loses a couple of difficulty levels.

Generally it's a thumbs up to Spectrum Holobyte for turning what was really an average puzzle game to something wit a little more longevity. Is it Super? Nah. It is Quite Good. That's more like it.


So just what is it about this Tetris phenomenon that makes it so popular, then? It's a simple idea: seven differently-shaped pieces fall one at a time and at random from the top of a pit, and pile up at the bottom. As they're falling you can rotate and move them left or right so they slot into the gaps in the other pieces. When a complete line is formed across the pit, the line disappears and all the other pieces drop down. The idea is to keep forming lines as long as possible. When the pieces pile up so much they touch the top of the pit, it's game over (man). On later levels the pieces fall more quickly.
Dull, huh? Apparently not. When the game first appeared from Russia three or four years ago, many people collectively threw up their hands, exclaimed "Good grief, that really does look good an no mistake," and remortgaged their houses to rush off and buy as many copies as they could. Since then it's become a cult in the computer game world. Heck, even the Macintosh has a version.

Der Super-Klon

Super Tetris logo

Was ist nur mit Alexej Pajitnov los? Erst erfindet er das geniale "Tetris", dann fallen ihm nur noch halbgare Ableger wie "Welltris" oder "Hatris" ein - und jetzt scheinbar gar nichts mehr...

Super Tetris ist das Eigenplagiat des Jahrhunderts, noch dazu ein technisch uninspiriertes: Die Steinchen sehen aus wie immer, die Hintergrund-Motive aus dem Moskauer Staatszirkus sind eh überflussig wie ein Kropf. Dazu plätschern Musikstücke und FX aus dem Lautsprecher, als ob sie das Ganze überhaupt nichts anginge - ein Glück, daß man sie abstellen kann.

Gesteuert wird am besten mit dem Keyboard, Stick und Maus bleiben nervenstarken Steinchen-Knoblern vorbehalten. Viel schlimmer aber ist, daß sich beim Gameplay nichts getan hat, was man nicht schon aus den vielen Kopien anderer Leute kennt.

Wie gehabt, schweben unterschiedlich geformte Klötze in einen Becher, während des Fluges kann man sie drehen und verschieben. Unten angekommen, müssen sie zu einer geschlossenen Reihe zusammengefügt werden, die dann verschwindet und das ganze Bauwerk nach unten rutschen läßt.

Im Gegenzug wandert eine kleine Grafik allmählich von unten nach oben, sobald diese komplett sichtbar ist, darf man den nächsten Level steinigen.

Neu ist nun, daß der Becher schon halb gefüllt kredenzt wird, daß die Steine pro Level limitiert sind und daß es jetzt Bombenpakete zum Wegsprengen von Fehlbauten sowie neun verschiedene Bonussteine (z.B. für mehr Punkte oder Klötzchen) gibt.

Insgesamt sieben Modi sind vorhanden, darunter einige für zwei Spieler, die aber nur via Null-Modem gleichzeitig gegeneinander antreten können. Tja, alles nicht übel, aber halt ein paar Jährchen zu spät! (rf)

Super Tetris logo

They wouldn't let it lie, would they? After numerous completely tragic attempts at bringing Tetris to the Amiga, totally eclipsed by some great PD versions (notably Super Twintris from our issue five coverdisk), MicroProse try to redress the balance with this new, sexy, improved, lots-f-extra-bits game which adds all manner of weird powerups and bonuses to the original block-dropping-and-line-filling gameplay.

For any of you who don't know the basic idea of Tetris, what you have to do is - no, only joking.

The best things among the new stuff here are the bombs which appear when you complete a line, allowing you to destroy parts of the scenery, which brings in a more tactical element lacking in the original game. Otherwise it's pretty much window-dressing stuff, which leaves us wondering whether the basic execution of the game merits paying out £30 for something you can now get for free. Um.

Well, first off, it's much better than the last professional job (the useless Infogrames one reviewed in issue two with 29%), with smooth-falling blocks and decent control (although still not as good as it could be - why no definable keyboard?), and some pleasantly clicky and bangy sound effects.

You get three different kinds of two-player mode (competitive, co-operative and head-to-head) which are all pretty entertaining, and the new level-based structure (you complete levels rather than just playing forever until you lose) is more rewarding, but somehow it just isn't compulsive.

Maybe the new features have overloaded the classic simplicity, maybe after three years and a hundred versions I'm just bored with it, but for all the bells and whistles I couldn't be bothered with Super Tetris after the first 20 minutes. This is, in all honesty, quite nice. You'd just have to be completely Tetris-loopy-nuts to spend £30 on it.

Super Tetris logo

Microprose have followed up one of the world's best-selling games. Tony Dillon sees how it compares...

Do I really have to explain to you how Tetris works? The game has sold so many copies I reckon people who don't actually own a computer or console bought it anyway so that they didn't feel left out. In fact, the manual claims the game (which involves manipulating small shapes composed of four squares and slotting them together to create horizontal lines for points) is so successful that his has strong links with the collapse of Communism and the Soviet state. Hmmm, I can't quite see it myself.

The difficulty with creating a sequel to a game like this is how to improve an already perfect game design. What you add or change mustn't destroy the addictive simplicity of the original but must add more to the gameplay somehow. The answer is to change the aim slightly, break the game into definite levels, add a few bonuses for good measure - and that's what happened here.

This time round, though, rather than simply keep the screen as clear as possible while the game gets faster, you have to try and empty a deep pit, which scrolls upwards as you remove lines to display a picture. You have a limited number of pieces to work with, and when you have fully displayed a picture, you move on to the next, harder level, where the pit is deeper and the blocks fall faster.

The first major gameplay change is the addition of bombs. Whenever you destroy a line, pairs of bombs fall instead of a block, and these destroy the boxes they land on, and can be used to create gaps in the rubble below. This helps a lot, but doesn't automatically make things easier.

Bonuses also come in the form of special blocks hidden in the rubble. These can do anything from giving you five extra blocks to use to destroying the line they're on. Bonuses are accessed by dropping bombs on them.

All of the original features of Tetris are present, from the Russian music through to the link-up two-player head-to-head option, but I can't help feeling that this cheapens the original slightly. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent game, but not really removed enough from the original idea to merit buying.

Still, it is Tetris, so no doubt it's likely to sell by the absolute bucketload no matter what I write here.