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.