EA’s ‘Tetris’ for iPhone “Works”

EA (Electronic Arts) delivered three titles for the App Store launch, including the classic game of Tetris [App Store]. If you’re not familiar with Tetris at all, you either have never played video games or are young… very young.

The original version of Tetris was released 23 years ago by Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov. A version of Tetris appears to have made it to every gaming platform and the iPhone is no exception. The reason I’m telling you this is that I suspect that most people are not looking to buy iPhone Tetris to discover a new game, but, instead, to recapture an old feeling. As a result, similar to Ms. Pac-Man, its ability to do that lies in the controls.

Before we get into the controls, however, we should note that EA has created a polished game with solid graphics and a good soundtrack.

Tetris for the iPhone allows you to choose two types of play: “Marathon" and “Magic". Marathon is your classic Tetris with 15 levels of increasing speed and difficulty. Your goal, of course, is to fit the pieces to fill horizontal rows. When a row is “complete" it is removed from the board. The game ends when the board fills up.

The “Magic" mode of play offers shorter goals and introduce “special" (gimmicky) gameplay tools that allow you to affect the game board. The Minimizer tool, for example, allows you to pinch the piece to shrink it to a single block. Another Bubble tool allows you to touch on existing blocks to pop them out of existence. This type of gameplay can offer a shorter game sessions if you are on the go.

Traditionally, Tetris has been controlled with a digital input. This means left means left, right means right, there is no try in between: Joystick, Keyboard, D-Pad. For controlling iPhone Tetris, EA decided to use the touch screen and a combination of swiping and tapping. (Despite my own curiosity, we should probably be glad that EA resisted the urge to use accelerometer controls in this game.) The controls are as follows:

Move Left = Slide finger left
Move Right = Slide finger right
Rotate Left = Tap on left side of screen
Rotate Right = Tap on right side of screen
Slow Drop = Slide finger down
Fast Drop = Flick finger down

The result? Surprisingly playable. Like Ms. Pac Man, I think we’re finding that swipe control is going to be the best to replace these digital controls, while the accelerometer should stay in the realm of analog controls (driving, for example).

So while I think casual Tetris fans will be reasonably happy with the controls, I suspect those that are more adept might run into issues as the levels progress. Unregistered swipes and taps do happen, though I suppose it’s possible this could be minimized with more practice.

Youtube video of the gameplay in Marathon mode. The “ghost" pieces you see at the bottom of the screen can be disabled.

Game Details

Name: Tetris
Developer: EA (Electronic Arts)
App Store Link: Buy
Price: $9.99
Compatibility: iPhone and iPod Touch