Review: Tetrisphere (15 hours, Nintendo 64)

My sister didn’t play many video games when we were kids, but she got hooked on two. One was The Sims, a game about living a fictitious life of someone else, and also decorating and budgeting for improvements to that person’s house. The other game she got hooked to is Tetrisphere, which isn’t like The Sims at all. Tetrisphere was going to be released on the Atari Jaguar, but the failure of the Jaguar led to the developers H2O Entertainment to port the game to the Nintendo 64. The game uses the same block shapes used in Tetris, but a sphere will only ever have two of those shapes at a time. It is a fun time sink, and there is some strategy, because there is a small speed-run community out there.

The game is a sphere of two shapes from Tetris, and you are trying to clear those blocks and reach the core of the sphere. You clear blocks by using the shape given to you (as your cursor, resembling a shadow) to clear one of the two shapes. Some, but not all, adjacent shapes will get cleared as well, helping you reach the core faster,. You can pick up blocks and move them to a better location to get a better combo. Just beware, missing the exact selection of a shape costs you a heart. There are three hearts, and losing all of them ends the level.

Quiet unexpected is the music. It’s pretty darn good. It has an electronic/techno sound to it, and it will stick with you after a long play session. The graphics are serviceable. You don’t need especially great graphics to display the puzzle. It’s nice to think there could be an Ultra HD remake to Tetrisphere or a sequel, but I see a couple of problems. One is that Nintendo might have some part of the rights after the Jaguar version fell through. They probably have no desire to sell Tetrisphere right now, because it’s not a bestseller for them like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Dragolia Lost. Also, H2O Entertainment, as far as I can tell, does not exist anymore. The last game they made was in 2001. There’s a new H2O Entertainment, but it doesn’t look like the same people.

The game has over 300 levels. There’s a gimmick in that the game gives you a weapon to destroy part of the sphere. You get one for scoring points, and if you wait, you’ll get an upgrade. There are six weapons in all, ending in the “Ray Gun,” which can shoot right to the core. There are a number of modes, and I think “Rescue” is the most fun, where you’re reaching the core to help a robot trapped in the center get out. The second best mode is “Puzzle,” where you’re limited to a number of moves, and must clear the sphere. The “Time Trial” is what it sounds like, and you can play a “Vs.” mode against the computer or a friend.

Puzzle games aren’t what they used to be. A game like Tetrisphere could sit next to any Nintendo 64 game at the time on the store shelf, like GoldenEye 007, and both would be “full-price.” Now it seems puzzle games are very happy in the Windows 10 Store, and the puzzle titles I don’t like (particularly on the Android operating system) charge “micro-transactions,” which can add up to a huge amount of money. This is from when a puzzle game really had to live up to sitting on the same shelf as the competition. Four stars for originality, and one star removed because it is novel but not perfect.

4/5

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