• Graphics
  • Sound
  • Playability
  • Lastability
FormatAtari 8-bit
DeveloperMad Team
ReviewJason and Gordon

Main review

Ahh… Tetris, eh? Ever since the first versions began, in Alexey Pazhitnov’s own words, to “breathe” it’s been something special, a deceptively simple puzzle game that can hook and addict just about any gamer regardless of their regular genre. And, as we’ve noted previously at Oldschool Gaming, it’s probably one of the most cloned games on the face of the planet with renditions on every 8-bit machine, graphing calculator and major electronic appliance going, so any new variation is immediately dealing with a huge number of competitors.

So what does this latest addition to the Tetris gene pool have to offer in order to stand out? For a start, like most Tetris variants the objective is to complete a certain number of lines but, when this quota is met, the player not only moves onto the next level but, rather than simply continuing, the well is cleared out as well. The other, far more noticeable variation though has to be the shapes; although six of the classic seven Tetris pieces are present and correct, the long bar is now one “unit” shorter so, ironically, its no longer possible to remove four lines at the same time, an action usually referred to as a “Tetris”. To make things more interesting, the developers have also added a series of new, larger shapes to the mix in the form of a cross, a larger L shape and a block with an extra unit grafted onto it.

Graphically speaking, Getris is fairly slick, with some nice presentation screens and quite a bit of colour slapped about the place, although during the game the shapes themselves are very dull in comparison to the side graphics. There’s heavy use of interlacing during play to increase the colour depth and, whilst this isn’t the wisest of moves on any game where the player is looking at the same graphics constantly, it’s nowhere near as obtrusive or indeed uncomfortable as it could be; although presumably, the extra graphical overheads are what led to the 128K minimum memory requirement, which is something of a shame really and a lot of Atari users will have been left out in the cold by it. Aurally speaking there’s nothing to fault apart from, perhaps, the lack of sound effects, although that’s not an issue to my mind and the selection of music is generally nice.

It has to be noted that the difficulty curve is incredibly shallow and, because reaching the level objective clears the well and resets the play area, it’s rare to need anything more than half of the space available even some four or five levels into the game; a lesson could have been learnt from the recent C64 rendition Xetris where each level begins with some clutter at the bottom of the well for the player to clear out. Tampering with any established game mechanism and especially one as well known and loved as Tetris is risky and there’s always a very good chance of crashing and burning; whilst Getris doesn’t go down in flames and the addition of the new shapes does work pretty well, there’s lots of scope for improvement. Don’t get me wrong here because Getris is actually a pretty solid title and received far more play time than most Tetris clones would, but it’s not perfect and, with so much competition in the Tetris “market”, Mad Team had their work cut out; apart from the new shapes, there’s nothing else to recommend it over other, better tuned renditions.

Second opinion

It’s good to see the “Atari Mad Team” trying something different with the Tetris genre, because we sure as hell don’t need another colour-by-numbers copy. You can’t help but feel, though, that a chance has been wasted. Like the specky school kid that trips and falls before the finishing line in the egg and spoon race in front of his parents, Getris has a great opportunity to impress… and blows it.

Getris has some slightly larger, more complex shapes that could have added a whole new dimension to the game, but it doesn’t go far enough. Only three new shapes are included, and amidst all the familiar 4-block pieces of old, their appearance doesn’t really alter the gameplay. If Mad Team had gone further and made Getris up of entirely new shapes, it could have been a classic, but what we have instead is a Tetris clone that seems caught between a sequel and a remake. To make matters worse, the pieces fall too slowly and there are no skill levels to speed things up. Even inexperienced gamers will find the opening stages a breeze. The graphics are so-so – just compare Getris‘ single-colour shapes and gloomy presentation to the altogether brighter appearance of the MSX title Magical Stones. The Atari 8-bits are capable of so much more graphically. At least the tunes are worthwhile, but again disappointingly, there are no in-game spot effects.

In a tired genre, Getris points the way forward without actually being the way forward, but there’s an idea here deserving of a follow-up. An update could iron out the kinks and give us the proper sequel to Tetris that we’ve been waiting for since 1990: here’s hoping.