Tetris is one of the few "perfect" games we've had in the past thirty plus years of gaming. It's the type of game that is accessible to everybody, yet you could spend the rest of your life trying to better your score and improve your skills. As a puzzle game it's flawless, there's absolutely nothing you could add to the game to make it any better. Unfortunately some versions of Tetris are not as perfect as others, a good case and point is Super Tetris for the Sega Master System.
At this point in our history I wouldn't be surprised if everybody reading this right now has played Tetris in one form or another, it's one of the most enduring titles ever created and has been on so many different platforms that you would have to be blind not to know what the game is. But while there are a lot of amazing versions of Tetris floating around out there, there are also a few that are so seriously flawed that it's hard to imagine that anybody involved with the project actually knew what Tetris was all about. Super Tetris is that kind of game; it looks like a real Tetris game but doesn't even come close to preserving what was fun about the Russian puzzle game.
Tetris is the puzzle game where different shaped blocks fall from the sky and you have to fit them together to make a line that spans the entire width of the board. All of the pieces are made up of four blocks and the best you can do is erase four lines at a time. The object is to keep erasing lines while the game's speed increases, continue to perform this simple task and perhaps you'll rack up a new high score, get too close to the top of the screen and it's game over for you. Those are the fundamentals of Tetris, the rules that all Tetris games must play by.
Super Tetris attempts to play by these rules, but somewhere along the lines they decided to suck all of the fun out of this port. The fundamentals are still intact, but there are simply too many problems that get in the way for this game to be considered a successful Tetris game. Oddly enough the biggest problem is the funky control scheme; it boggles the mind that somebody can mess up the controls of a game as simple as Tetris. Not only is the D-pad sluggish, but it's disappointing that you can only rotate the pieces in one direction. This may not sound like a big deal, but any hardcore Tetris player will tell you that it's imperative that you are able to rotate your blocks both clockwise and counter clockwise, especially as these pieces start falling faster.
Not only is the game somewhat difficult to control, but it's not always clear when the pieces have stopped moving. Too many times I found myself putting the blocks in the wrong location simply because I thought I had moved on to controlling the next piece. There seems to be a second or two delay between the block hitting the ground and you being able to control the next piece. This is especially annoying in the later levels when the pace of the game has increased.
Speaking of the speed, Super Tetris is extremely unfair when it comes to ramping up the difficulty. Instead of gradually increasing the speed, this game goes from slow to extremely fast in no time. You can play twenty levels and not feel the speed increase, but all of a sudden in the next level everything is going two or three times faster. Couple this with the bad controls and you have a major problem that should have been ironed out in the development phase.
It's hard to be too critical of the graphics in a Tetris game, but Super Tetris manages to be all wrong in that department, too. The biggest problem seems to be that this version of Tetris is a little too colorful, often with colors that are difficult on the eyes. It's not that big of a deal, but the cacophony of colors can sometimes be a little too distracting. Even worse than the actual pieces is the bizarre background. Super Tetris seems to want you to believe that it's out in the middle of space, on some green planet or something. To convey this you are forced to see the same background for as long as you are playing. I am utterly confused by the space theme; you really don't need an elaborate background for a Tetris game. It's Tetris for crying out loud.
So what makes this Tetris game so "Super"? Oddly enough it's because they added a completely unnecessary rule to the game that actually takes a lot of the challenge out of this puzzler. As you complete levels you will be giving an extra item that allows you to clear the whole board whenever you feel like it. If your pieces are getting a little too close to the top all you need to do is hit a button and it wipes the board clean. As a Tetris purist I can't condone this type of enhancement, especially since it takes a lot of the challenge right out of the game. These extra items are entirely too easy to earn and it means that you won't need to spend a lot of time actually dealing with your mistakes. I won't say it ruins all of the fun, but it certainly doesn't add anything to the overall experience.
Super Tetris is just a mess; it features terrible control, ugly graphics and enhancements that take away from fun of the game. If you're a Master System owner that has never played another Tetris game then you are probably going to be confused by the rest of the world's reaction to this "perfect" game. Thankfully this Master System game isn't your only option; there are literally thousands of different versions of the game out there for you to get your hands on. So forget Super Tetris, it's time you hunt down a real version of the game and see what all the fuss is about.