It's not often you get a game that you can actually say is a load of balls. Apart from Clayfighter, anyway. But Tetrisphere has more balls than an SAS platoon - your mission is to blow holes in them!
Tetrisphere is an updated version of the classic puzzle game Tetris, where you have to clear a screen of falling blocks in different shapes by arranging them into lines. If that sounds easy enough, then you should probably know that apart from involving blocks of different shapes, Tetrisphere is almost totally different from Tetris. It makes you wonder why they even bothered giving it the same name, aside from the obvious reason of cashing in.
You even get a plot, sort of, in the 'Rescue' game. A gang of robots who look like left-overs from Terrahawks are trapped in the core of the spheres, and you have to help them break out. You do this by rotating the sphere with the d-pad so that when you drop a brick, it lands next to a group of the same kind. When you form a group it disappears, gradually eroding the surface of the sphere to reveal the different layers underneath. Once you get through to the core, you just need to create a hole big enough for the robot to fit through to complete the level. And there was much rejoicing. Yay.
Doing this is a lot harder than it sounds, because it's so different to any other puzzle game, just having the action take place on a rotating sphere is pretty confusing to start with, but the way that blocks are disposed of isn't all that intuitive at first. It gets easier with practice, and the game has tried to help out by putting up a flashing cursor when you can drop a block without losing one of your three lives. It's still not something you can spot at a glance though.
Things are made harder by a stiff time limit. As it ticks down, the sphere moves closer and closer to you, making your attempts to find a safe spot to drop your current brick even more frenzied and desperate. When the sphere reaches you, you lose yet another life.
If this all sounds a bit difficult, you can earn yourself special weapons like rockets, lasers and atom bombs. These are obtained by setting up large groups (blocks already on the surface can be dragged into new positions if you're quick enough) and by creating a new group before the chain reaction started by the last one has finished. The weapons vary in power, but they all cause major property damage to the shell of the sphere, making your robot recovery a lot easier.
Mash Your Brains
There are several other game types as well as Rescue. The most tricky is the Puzzle game, which sets up blocks in a specific pattern, and gives you a limited number of drops and drags to dispose of them all. This is real brain-mashing stuff once it gets to the harder levels! Some of them look impossible at first, but after some hard thinking and a bit of trial and error you'll smack your forehead in disbelief that you didn't see the solution earlier.
Another entertaining mode is the two-player game. You can play this against the N64 if you want, but obviously it's a lot more fun if you take on a real person and laugh madly as you crush them into the dirt! The screen is split in two down the middle, and as you dispose of groups on your side, their blackened remains drop onto the other player's sphere, getting in his way and bringing the top layer of the sphere closer to him. It's quite a good laugh, but unless your opponent has got as much experience of the game as you it can be a totally one-sided match! Because it takes a while to get the hang of Tetrisphere, novice players are going to wind up trying to stab veteran opponents in the back of the skull with their pointy joypad.
Tetrisphere's British release is actually pretty good value, because it's one of the first new (ish) games to come out at a decent price. Forty quid might not be impulse purchase stuff, but considering how expensive it was on import it's a hell of a sight more affordable than it could have been. It's not a bad game to play either. It's not something that you're going to be completely glued to for six weeks without a break, but it's the kind of game that you can keep coming back to for a quick bash whenever you've got a bit of time to kill. Just like the original Tetris, which is a recommendation in itself!
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Technically interesting attempt to update the classic Tetris, but maybe a bit too clever for its own good and hard to get into.
Confusing (surely what it definitely shouldn't be), complicated and. although it looks lovely, eventually it just ends up being frustrating.