One of the key draws of Tetris has always been its elegant simplicity--a simplicity that allows for open interpretation, which is attested to by the countless forms it has taken on consoles, the PC, cell phones, calculators, and various Web-based platforms. Now, Blue Planet Software has brought six different variations on the Tetris formula together for Tetris Worlds on the PlayStation 2. With its wealth of gameplay modes and passable presentation, Tetris Worlds probably would have been one of the best iterations of Tetris yet. Unfortunately, Tetris Worlds also introduces one particular change to the gameplay that renders the classic game all but unplayable.
Graphics and sound have never been make-or-break categories for Tetris games, which really works to the advantage of Tetris Worlds. The music is made up of noodley ambient techno and industrial tracks, all of which are completely forgettable. The Tetris field itself looks like, well, Tetris. Each mode has its own themed backdrop, where you'll see barren deserts, erupting volcanoes, an icy tundra, and more exotic and fanciful landscapes. It's all decent-looking window dressing, though it can be slightly distracting from the game at hand.
As previously mentioned, Tetris Worlds is composed of six different flavors of Tetris: square Tetris, cascade Tetris, sticky Tetris, hot-line Tetris, fusion Tetris, and plain old white-bread Tetris. Any of these modes can be played solo or against up to three other players. By tweaking the existing rules of Tetris or adding entirely new rules, each mode requires you to come at block management and block placement with a slightly different strategy, but it's still just six slightly different variations on the same theme. If you don't already love Tetris, it's unlikely that any of these will sway you.
Tetris Worlds institutes two gameplay conventions that may prove helpful for the novice and the expert alike. The hold function lets you remove a piece that is in play and save it for later, making it easier to plan out and execute a full four-line Tetris. The ghost piece gives you a better idea of where your piece will end up once you drop it by projecting an outline of the current shape in play on the bottom of the screen. These additions can make playing Tetris a lot less frustrating, and in the case of the hold function, slightly more strategic, though both of these functions can be turned off for those who detest any form of hand-holding.
There is one aspect of the gameplay that unfortunately cannot be turned off. Once the piece in play reaches the bottom, you can continue to spin it infinitely, which will keep it from setting and keep the next piece from dropping. While your Tetris piece is in this limbo state, you can also move it side to side, giving you ample time to decide where it should go. This change effectively castrates the game, removing any challenge it might have presented. We were able to tear through the game's 15 levels of difficulty without breaking a sweat, thanks to this infinite spinning feature. The point of Tetris has always been to push the player to think and move as quickly as possible. With Tetris Worlds, there is no point.
Which begs the question, did THQ and Blue Planet make this gameplay alteration for the benefit of novice players, or is it simply an oversight? Either way, Tetris Worlds does what countless iterations of the game haven't managed to do in the past--it actually breaks Tetris.