REVIEW – Tetris 99

After the most recent Nintendo Direct, something occurred that I never would have predicted: a battle royale game has been released exclusively for a Nintendo console. Even more surprisingly, this game is a new version of Tetris.

Tetris 99 is a surprising and abundantly fun twist on the classic Tetris formula. As the title suggests, 99 players simultaneously play Tetris against one another, with the last player standing crowned the winner.

Tetris has arguably the most near to perfect gameplay that any game could possibly have, and that is absolutely still the case. Nothing is more satisfying than clearing four lines at once. The encouragement to clear multiple lines in a combo has increased by integrating attacks on other players’ boards and the clearing out of incoming garbage lines from opposing attacks.

From the battle royale side, Tetris 99 does what every good entry in the genre should do: get the player from a loss into the next game as quickly as possible. Losses, while disappointing, are not as devastating once the game is lost. Just hold the A button to jump into a new game within 30 seconds. There is only as much downtime as the player allows there to be.

There are a few issues, however, beginning with the fact that Tetris 99 is absolutely bare-bones. There is only one mode — the 99 player battle royale. And while this lends all of the focus to the new game mode, there is much left to be desired. This version of Tetris does not allow for a basic game of Tetris, which is absolutely baffling. While this clearly isn’t the draw of the game, more modes would help to make the game feel like more than just a novel concept.

Deliberately playing with friends is also not possible. One of the major draws of the battle royale genre is playing on a team with your friends, so to see this option does not exist is disappointing, to say the least.

The largest issue, is that there is no explanation of how certain functions in this game work. There is an aspect of the gameplay tied to the left analogue stick (by default) that accesses a command prompt. There is no explanation (to my knowledge) of what this actually does, which means players are left to figure it out on their own.

My personal best guess is that the options listed are for targeting specific types of players (ex. those who are attacking you and those who are closest to being K.O.ed), a conclusion I arrived at only because the other analogue stick can be used to target individual players. As odd as it is to say this about a Tetris game, there should be some kind of tutorial. As it stands, there is a major obstacle preventing players from learning how to effectively perform.

Ultimately, Tetris 99 is a fun game that anyone with Nintendo Switch Online should download for the mere fact that it’s free. The template provided is extremely solid, and with some support, there is potential for a truly great Tetris experience. The way things stand at the moment ensure that Tetris 99 is not a selling point for Switch Online. It isn’t even the best version of Tetris available on Switch, with that title belonging to PuyoPuyo Tetris. While I have been having fun with the game, and will likely continue to do so, I find it hard to recommend to anyone who doesn’t already love Tetris.

The Announcement Trailer of Tetris 99 from the February 13, 2019 Nintendo Direct