Worst. Tetris. Ever.
Well, the worst I've played, at least. Sure, it's still Tetris, so how bad can it be? Stripped to its core, it offers the blocks-keep-falling mania we all know so well, but it's such an over-licensed game that every new version seems to try to do something different. Tetris Worlds is no exception.
So, in essence, a review of any new Tetris must be a comparative review of what's been changed, rather than a review of the original game itself. Excluding the new game modes, which I'll touch on below, the remainder of the changes appear as several pieces of minutiae, inconsequential on their own, but adding up in sufficient quantity to destroy the game.
The playing field has a grid delineating the squares, and there's no way to disable it. The pieces are bright neon colors as they fall, but turn dark, nearly blending in with the gray background when finally placed. The low contrast is disappointing, as color is important in many of the alternate play modes, such as Sticky Tetris. Optional functions include previewing the next pieces, and a piece "ghost," or shadow of where it will be when placed. The former lets the player see the next six pieces—far too many!—and the coloration of the ghost was distracting enough that I didn't pay attention to much else. In all cases, pieces fall through at least two extra buffer rows before entering the playing field proper.
Yes, as Brad states, the music selection is poor and the Story mode is absurd. In contrast to Brad, I observed the cube avatar as just a nod to the popular style of borrowing settings or characters from fighting games. Rather than providing any sort of personality, though, I saw the avatars as completely generic and superfluous creatures, used mainly as attempted filler for the lack of new quality content.
Brad did a fine job of describing the new modes of play in Tetris Worlds in his main review, but I'm at odds with his claim that these modes alone are enough to give the game new life. The cubic avatars may not be all that was borrowed: most of the alternate game modes, such as Cascade and Square, seem to be the impure spawn of Tetris and other newer puzzle games, Puyo Puyo and Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo respectively, in this case. By attempting to mash so many puzzle game ideas together, the resultant stew is akin to Friday leftovers in any mess hall: it has a week's worth of ingredients, but still leaves a bad taste.
Multiplayer is where Tetris Worlds disappoints the most. It has the same game modes available, but only two types of competition, neither of which are described in the manual. "Knock-Out" stops the game every time one player completes a level, leaving "Race" with a smoother flow. It's a shame that the playing field for each player gets cleared as often as it does. Even worse is that there's only minimal interaction between players. It feels more like playing Tetris in parallel rather than competitively. There's no sense of urgency at all; it's actually boring.
The greatest disaster has to be the piece randomization. Every Tetris player surely knows the agony of waiting for a straight, long, and narrow piece to complete four lines, and Tetris Worlds doesn't fail there. Rather, it adds another agony: that of too many repeating pieces. In one game, I counted no less than 25 left-handed "S" pieces in a row, and it was not a freak occurrence. Brad's mention of the difficulty of the timed challenges remains true. With problems like this, is it any wonder it's difficult to clear 40 or more lines in the meager time limit allowed?
The distracting backgrounds, wide range of poor settings, and complete absence of anything really new make me wonder why anyone bothered to make Tetris Worlds. I suppose my question can be easily answered with common rhetoric, though. Tetris is such a classic game that a version should be available for every platform, and this is the first for the current generation of consoles. But even that won't stop me from asking: how can a Tetris game actually be this bad?
Disclaimer: This review is based on the GameCube version of the game.