At the end of tonight’s Nintendo Direct, one of the big surprises Nintendo had in store for everyone was Tetris Battle Royale. No, seriously. The game is called Tetris 99, as in, ninety-nine people playing Tetris at the exact same time. As you might expect, the last person to remain on the Tetris battlefield is crowned the champion. I know some of you may be thinking how can I possibly review this game when it only launched a few hours ago. Well, there’s really not that much to it.
Tetris 99 is basically Tetris Battle with a lot more people in it than you’d expect. If you aren’t familiar with Tetris Battle, you battle your opponents by sending Tetris lines at them. You can negate the lines your opponent sends by cancelling them out with your own. Having ninety-nine people in the game all at once doesn’t really add anything, it’s just a fun gimmick for the developers to bring to Tetris. As each of the players slowly drop out of the game, the overall game speed will increase, making it harder to build up lines to clear. By the time the game reaches the final five players, the speed bumps up to 100% of what it originally started at.
Take a look at either side of the screen and you will get to see the other ninety-eight players in the arena. Pausing for a moment to see what is going on will show you how much having this many players in at once does for Tetris Battle, which is not a whole lot. One thing that I found strange when I started playing the game was that I had no idea what the icons were at the top of the playing screen. After watching back some of the gameplay, I believe it’s an option for you to choose who you’d like to target with your garbage lines. I played over an hour of Tetris 99 without realising what it was and I had no problems at all, so I assume with this many players, it virtually has no effect.
Unlike other Tetris games, you cannot see your opponent’s screen in realtime. I found this to be disappointing as knowing exactly what my opponent has on their screen gives me a rough idea of when I should be sending Tetrises (a Tetris is when you clear four lines) towards them. Not having this information, especially in the final 1v1 scenarios at the end of each game, really made me struggle as I had no idea when I could build without being punished or send garbage lines of my own.
One of the things I would’ve liked to have seen is the screens of the dead players slowly vanish away as you continue to play the game. When you get into a 1v1 scenario, the placement of your opponent’s screen is random every single time. It would have been much better if the remaining players were made clearer, that way you wouldn’t have to hunt for each remaining opponent left. Then again, this would only truly be helpful if you could watch your opponent’s screen in realtime to gauge your options accordingly. I hope something like this gets added in a patch down the line, but I can’t see that happening any time soon.
In the hour that I managed to play, I did suffer with some lag issues. To be fair, I was playing on Wi-Fi so I am partially to blame, however, I can’t say I’ve had problems like this playing Puyo Puyo Tetris. When lag spikes do occur, you are unable to move around the Tetris pieces correctly, almost guaranteeing a mistake. This is obviously a big problem when it happens, but it only occurred a few times during my session. I also had the game randomly disconnect me during a match, though this did only happen once in the ten games I played. Speaking of the online quality, by the end of my gameplay session my matches started to get considerably more difficult than the earlier ones. This goes to show that the matchmaking may actually be quite good as I foolishly expected to win every game.
In some of the more recent Tetris games, there is usually an option to mess around with the drop speed of the blocks and how fast your D-Pad can scroll from left to right. Fortunately, I found that I didn’t have to adjust anything as the game felt perfect on a controller. I know this will cause some issues for the hardcore players that play Tetris using an arcade stick as they typically need the option to remap their controls. Again, hopefully this is added down the line in a patch.
Tetris 99 is completely free to people who subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online. As of right now, the only way to play this game is via the Nintendo Switch, so if you desperately want to get in on the action you’ll need to remember to factor in the price of an online membership too. To be honest, I would probably pay to play something like this because I am a massive Tetris fan, but I can very easily see why others would not.
Tetris is seen by a lot of people as a nice puzzle game that you can jump in and out of. Tetris 99 puts you on a battlefield with ninety-eight strangers and forces you to kill each other in an endless bloodbath until one person is left standing. As much as the idea of this appeals to me, I can see a large portion of the player base wanting to drop this game in the space of a few days. Fortunately for the hardcore audience, as Tetris 99 is free, the player base should remain active for the foreseeable future.
Tetris 99 could use a little bit of work to improve some of the issues I have, but overall it does a decent job at giving Tetris a much needed Battle Royale mode. I don’t think Tetris 99 is all that different to the traditional Tetris Battle that you’d find in other games, however, the sheer novelty of it is quite fun and I’m sure it’ll keep people entertained for a few weeks. If you start to get into Tetris 99 and want more variety, you’ll need to buy a different Tetris game to satisfy that craving.