The Xetris story is a long and quite complex one and it begins in the past at the castle of Count Zordoba and his six daughters. The surrounding area was reduced to a battlefield by the invading Saracens and Zordoba's place became a last refuge for his family and as many local people as could cram inside. Sadly, the defences failed and everyone was slain except the Count's six daughters who threw themselves from the top of the highest tower. All very nice and cosy, but where does the player come in? Well, zap forward to the present day and our hero is part of a large project using super computers to map black holes. Somehow, the equipment is connecting through to another dimension and encountering the spirits of the sisters and, because hauntings seem to work this way, the only way to free them, save the computers from crashing and generally be the good guy is to stack geometric shapes as they're flung from the top of the castle into the storage pit.
Okay, a somewhat contrived storyline for what is essentially a Tetris clone, but at least some effort went into it and that's pretty much par for the course with this game. Instead of a pure clone of the original mechanics, quite a lot of thought has gone into making Xetris stand out; the implementation of the controls is spot on, with a drop control and a little after-touch to make the blocks a little easier to place, there's a friendly next block indicator and it's not just a matter of continuous play because each level has a certain number of lines required before it's complete and each level from the second onwards starts out with some clutter that the player needs to clear in order to make some space to work. Another very nice little feature is an indicator on the bottom of the play area that shows where the next block arriving is in relation to what is already there; I've not seen this before on a Tetris variant and it does enhance the gameplay.
On the graphics front, Xetris is nicely presented with quite a bit of colour and I was quite taken with the little picture of the castle with the ghosts of the sisters who, for reasons best known to themselves, manifest as letters of the word Xetris trooping in and out of the door is a nice touch - I especially liked the way that the last one out turned the lights off. The game itself has a clear, un-cluttered play area and status bar with simple shapes formed from single characters, each type of shape having a colour for easy identification. It's not going to set the world on fire because the graphics are functional at best, but they do perform that function reasonably well at the same time.
The sound is pretty reasonable too; the music supplied by Richard Bayliss is one of his better pieces and manages to fit in with the gameplay well without being intrusive or repetitive. The spot effects are simple but get the job done and don't detract from the rest of the sound by nicking the channels too much.
In the end, Xetris is "yet another Tetris clone" and, what with the flood of clones released as the commercial era of the C64 ended, has a lot of competition out there. To my mind, Xetris trounces the majority of the competition, rates far better than the official version by Mirrorsoft and is up there with both Gameboy Tetris and the classic Vioris on the gameplay front. It's well worth playing in preference to the majority of clones out there and, if this first effort is anything to go by (and I hope it is), the name Danny Biesmans could well be one to watch out for in the future.