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Tetris Ultimate Review


Ahhh, 1989: the year of Batman and Tetris. An 11 year old DOA gets a newly released Game Boy for his birthday and, just like the NES before, it’s bundled with a game; that game… Tetris. I had no idea what it was but like the rest of the country, I was about to be hooked. It seemingly became an overnight phenomenon, everyone was playing it, talking about it, and humming its catchy little tune. I can only guess as to how many hours I lost to it, but it was a lot. Many say it’s the reason the Game Boy was such a hit initially, and many, many ports and variations of the game would flood the market on handhelds, phones, consoles and PC’s for decades to come. Obviously the sensation of the initial release has cooled, but there are still enough fans of the game out there that you see a new release of it every year or two on one platform or another.  Since we have entered a new generation of console gaming with the Xbox One and PS4, you knew it would be coming and thanks to Ubisoft here it is: Tetris Ultimate. Now I, as a (almost) lifelong Tetris fan, couldn't wait for this release. I even said on the DRM Gamecast that it was in my top 5 most anticipated games of 2014; and come on, they put Ultimate in the title which means it’s gotta be the best one ever, right… right?


Developer: SoMa play
Publisher: Ubisoft
Format: Xbox one
Release Date: December 17th, 2014
Copy provided by publisher
Well before we get into whether or not it lives up to its title of Ultimate or not, I should probably explain exactly what Tetris is. If you don’t know then you must have been living under a rock the last 30 years, but i'll explain it just in case. Feel free to skip the next paragraph.

Tetris is a puzzle game where six different shaped pieces fall randomly one at a time from the top of the screen to the bottom. As they fall you place and fit them together to form lines that clear them from the board. You can clear between one and four lines at a time depending on how good you are at placing them. Clearing four lines at once is called a Tetris. The main mode of Tetris is marathon mode where you want to hold out till level 15. Each level is reached by clearing lines and increasing your score. With each level completed the speed of the drops increases till you win or lose. Its basic and its awesome.

Now this being the Ultimate Tetris experience means that there is more to it than just marathon mode. There are a plethora of other modes: Sprint, where you try to clear 40 line as fast as possible; Ultra, clear as many lines as you can in 3 minutes; Battle, take on the computer to see who can last the longest; Battle Ultimate, same as Battle but with attack pieces that do things like make your opponents pieces invisible, or all square pieces and Endless; I’ll let you guess how that works. Then there is the Tetris Live component of the game where all of these modes can be played online against 2-4 players. There’s also the co-op and challenge feed but I’ll get to those later.
So far this probably all sounds great until you actually start playing and the problems start to mount. Now if all you want to do is play the game solo and don’t care about achievements/trophies, then fine and dandy, the game’s a 10 out of 10. If you’re like me, however, and want more than the 1989 Game Boy version of the game had to offer, it’s a mixed bag at best. All of the solo modes work fine but the online portion of the game has some of the slowest matchmaking ever seen and worst yet, it can often lag which, in a game like this where speed is essential, is quite a problem. How there can be any lag in a game that is just about dropping geometrical pieces from the sky when in games like Call of Duty and Sunset Overdrive, with explosions and gunfire everywhere, is lag free beyond me.  Then in the co-op, there are two evil words: “local only”. Come on people, its 2015. This is a joke right? Now local is a fine addition, but where’s the online co-op? I don’t know if its laziness or incompetence but this is unacceptable at this point and is a major strike against the game.
If you’re into achievement or trophy hunting you’ll be disappointed to see that several of the them are quite a grind, like doing 3000 T-spins, or wanting you to spend forever in the games slow online, where you need to clear 100,000 lines. Yikes.



And now for what might be the biggest face palm moment of the game: the Challenge feed. The Challenge feed is a cool feature that tracks and posts your friends scores in the various modes of the game for you to try and beat. Here’s the story.  Right at the start of the new generation of gaming in 2013, Ubisoft released Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, which had some social sharing elements added to the game like finding chests and rare animals to hunt that, when online , would pop up on maps for your friends that were also playing the game. Sounds cool except for the fact that the game was programmed for the Xbox 360 first, which has a friends cap at 100, then ported to the Xbox One, which now allows 1,000 friends plus almost unlimited followers, and having more than 100 friends broke the feature. Now I get it’s a new system and it was just a little oversight on their part, but then they never really fixed it and gamers had to either delete friends or figure out other workarounds to get it to work. Then later in May of 2014 Ubisoft released Child of Light which had the same problem. Now here we are over a year after the launch of the Xbox One, PS4, and Assassins Creed 4 and guess what? That’s right, the challenge feed is broken if you have over 100 friends. How have you still not fixed this Ubisoft?
Should I be surprised? Ubisoft, one of the best game developers/publishers, just can’t seem to get their act together since the new consoles have come out. It’s been one over-hyped or broken game after another with them and unfortunately for me, Tetris was yet another victim. I mean really, how do you screw up Tetris?…. It’s Tetris and to call it Ultimate with broken features and no online co-op?
Unfortunately, 1989 is long past and better Batman movies have come out and I was really hoping this would be the Christopher Nolan version of Tetris, but I’m sorry to say it’s not and I can’t possibly recommend it to people. Maybe they will eventually get some updates and patches out that will change things, but my advice as of this moment is to stay away and just play some cheaper, better mobile version.

Summary:
+ solo play is great as always
- slow matchmaking and some lag
- no online co-op
- broken challenge feed if you have friends


Score: 4/10
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