We live in an utter utopia of board and video games available to everyone today. There are plenty of niches that are filled and plenty of robust multiplayer experiences. But back in the day, we didn’t have much. The world has had Chess for centuries. Someone somewhere once thought Monopoly was a fun game12. But for the quick pick up and play social game, there was always UNO.
Some people take UNO pretty seriously. I am one of those people. I hold the official rule of ensuring that someone has to say UNO as they are playing their second to last card in the highest regard. However the basic game of UNO can be a little wanting in terms of ACTION! Society has adapted and produced a series of house rules to make the action better, yet they are inconsistent and not very well documented or endorsed. Some even misinterpret the official core ruleset and then are outraged when the official UNO Twitter account posts about it. I admire that everyone had collective Mandela Effect regarding the rules and that they were trying to add a little chocolate to the vanilla. But adding a Draw Two card to a Draw Four Wild card? It’s preposterous and doesn’t make any sense to me. But what if I told you that the makers of UNO had their own MANUFACTURER RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL RULES? Well… they do.
I have been preaching these for years and no one has taken my word for it. And surprisingly after purchasing a fresh deck of UNO while on vacation I had discovered they were removed from the printed manual. A friend of mine did some Google-fu and found them for me. So I humbly present to you directly from Mattel’s website a PDF with the rules enclosed. There are two specific sections of note3:
These will change your world when it comes to UNO. If you “take UNO seriously” then you need to familiarize yourself with these. They are manufacturer recommended4, easy to interpret and reference, and make the game a blast. Also you might want to start by reading the base rules first anyway. But let’s be honest: UNO is all luck anyways and Disney Princess UNO is the real best version5.
2019 is shaping up to be loaded with games. Here’s what I’m looking forward to this year. Presented in no particular order.
Killer Queen Black
Samurai Gunn 2
Super Mario Maker 2
Cadence of Hyrule
Shovel Knight: King of Cards
Super Meat Boy Forever
Mortal Kombat XI
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Untitled Goose Game
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
I’m sure there are more games. I’ve already had a couple of games surprise me this year. Most of these have release dates or are confirmed for this year. There are plenty of AAA games that are on the horizon but I’m not certain what we’re getting this year.
There’s a tipping point where hobbies can become obsessions. But I’m not there quite yet. I don’t think. I’m seeking help, okay?1 Here’s more Tetris I’ve procured recently.
Have you ever wanted Tetris on the go?2 Well I have. I’ve played Tetris on a touchscreen phone but it’s not the same without physical buttons.This thing is tiny, but the screen is top notch and it has sound. There is no hold slot, but it does have a hard drop and ghost piece functionality. This is so easy to carry around everywhere you may not want to carry a Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo Switch3. It’s so cute!
Super Famicom and Virtual Boy Tetris
After years playing Tetris on North American consoles and handhelds, I’ve wanted to dig into more obscure Tetris offerings. I used wikipedia and this video4 as a reference on what I wanted to focus on, and after I got a Super NT for Christmas, I’ve definitely wanted to play more Super Famicom games. Most of these Tetris games on the Super Famicom are in English so it makes playing them pretty easy to pick up and try.
Super Tetris 2 & 3
These games feature very smooth scrolling blocks which is unique to these games. They each feature different modes in addition to traditional Tetris. Super Tetris 3 has a mode called Familiss which is four player Tetris on the Super Nintendo5. Both offer a form of Bombliss which was known as Tetris Blast in North America. These are standard Tetris fare otherwise.
This is just the Bombliss flavor of Tetris with more of a focus on solving each stage.
Tetris Battle Gaiden
Tetris Battle Gaiden is definitely the most interesting version on this list. It’s a versus game but unlike traditional multiplayer it features a set of characters and character specific power ups that can be activated during matches. Unfortunately this game is almost entirely in Japanese, however I was able to find some resources online that explain the controls, powers, and strategies. While there is a Vs. COM mode6, I really want to play this with a human. This is one of the more unique entries in Tetris history.
Nintendo’s early foray into virtual reality didn’t go too well with the Virtual Boy. But that didn’t stop the inevitable juggernaut of Tetris from appearing in some form on the platform. There were only 22 Virtual Boy games, and Tetris made it onto the platform not once but twice. V-Tetris is a Japanese only version that plays like traditional Tetris. 3D Tetris on the other hand is a little bit different. Instead of a 2D play, it’s more of organizing blocks in 3D space7. It’s more like packing boxes rather than Tetris.
More To Come
I’m not done on my Tetris Crusade8, and I’ll have more in depth commentary about these games and more in the future.
Sometimes it’s nice to take break from some of the bigger games.1 Here’s what I’ve been playing recently.
I love when a game has this level of execution. Ape Out is a game where the player takes control of a rampaging ape trying to escape2. But this simple premise is made exceptional with its jazz album infused world with top notch sound design. I don’t want to spoil too much. Watch the first 30 seconds of the game. There aren’t many games that set out to be so unique like this and do it with style. Just play this game. This is definitely a highlight for me this year.
Just after I wrote my Tetris worshiping blog posts, Nintendo pulled me back in3 with a surprise announcement during their last Nintendo Direct. I have dismissed Battle Royale games before, but damn if it doesn’t work great for Tetris. Where Tetris Effect is chill and zen, Tetris 99 is intense and stressful. I am still trying to flex my Tetris skills with this game, and I definitely need to up my T-Spin setups. If you have a Switch, this is worth paying for Nintendo Switch Online4.
Marble It Up!
Sometimes I just want a simple premise with my games. Marble It Up! is a physics game with a marble and a goal. It’s as if a game from the mid-2000s was made today in HD. It’s in the same vein as Super Monkey Ball, etc. Simple, effective, and fun. It will be cool to see if someone speed runs this game for Games Done Quick. Recommended if you want something simple, fun, and… marble related.
Tetris Effect is the best Tetris game since Tetris DS1. It’s loosely based on the phenomenon where people see Tetris blocks after playing in their thoughts and dreams. Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the mind behind Rez and Lumines, had wanted for years to make a Tetris game. He finally got the chance, and it was worth the wait. Tetris Effect uses some of the same design choices of Rez and Lumines in an effort to provoke synesthesia.
Tetris Effect intelligently doesn’t shake up the core of Tetris, but instead embraces it entirely. It’s how everything is presented with love and care that makes Tetris Effect an experience.
It’s The Journey Not the Destination
The main campaign of Tetris Effect is called Journey Mode. It’s definitely a journey and I recommend completing it in one or two sessions if you have the time.
In Journey Mode, the player goes through several scenes where the music, visuals, and sound effects all revolve around a certain theme, such as skimming the ocean surface with dolphins, serenity with windmills, a pilgrimage through the desert, or a jazz infused cityscape. Each scene is its own plane of unique existence. It’s mesmerizing.
Tetris has never been considered a visually appealing series. It’s remained fairly basic. Blocks. Colors2. Tetris Effect is the first game in the series that really pushes visuals into the spotlight. Tetrominos remain in their basic shapes and configurations3, but the colors, textures, and blocks change to fit the scene. Sometimes the blocks will be multicolored and other times they will be monochromatic.
After a certain number of lines are cleared, the screen changes and the player is warped to a new scene. Every scene builds slowly. Some start off quietly, and after a number of lines are cleared, the scene will change and build upon itself. New instrumentations, vocals, beats, and flashier visuals are introduced.
The default view of Tetris Effect has the playing field zoomed out4 so that the scene wraps around everything else. I recommend playing this way the first time as it enhances the effect5.
Don’t Zone Out, Zone In
Tetris Effect doesn’t change the core of Tetris, with one exception: Zone. The Zone mechanic is exclusive to Journey Mode. Over the course of clearing lines, a Zone meter fills up. Zone can be activated by pressing a trigger on the controller. Once activated, time stops. Lines can be cleared, but instead of disappearing, they move to the bottom of the screen. The goal of entering Zone is to clear as many lines as possible to achieve, essentially, a “super Tetris” – such as a Dodecatris6. Clearing the entire playfield will give you the coveted and elusive Ultimatris.
While in Journey Mode, the progression is measured by clearing a set number of lines – however, lines cleared in Zone do not count toward this counter, but the score is. So an advanced way to maximize your score is to build up the playfield and activate Zone before you reach the quota.
This is definitely one of the most interesting gameplay ideas ever introduced to Tetris in its 30 year history. It feels so natural to Tetris. It’s a shame it isn’t available in other modes.
The Journey Is Just Beginning
After Journey Mode is completed, the rest of the game opens up with several other modes. This includes traditional Marathon and Line Clear modes, as well as several others. The modes are separated into categories like Classic, Chill, and Adventurous.
In the Adventurous category, you’ll find Mystery Mode. Mystery Mode is especially challenging; for every few lines cleared, a new wrench is thrown into gameplay such as inverting the playfield7, only giving the player square tetrominos, and more. I finally completed the 150 lines and felt like I accomplished something, but I only got a C rating, which means there is always room for improvement.
In the Chill8 category, the games do not end when the stack reaches the ceiling. Instead, the board clears and the player can continue playing until they clear all the lines, or until they quit. This is great for one reason in particular: it allows the player to build up to a speed level and continue playing at that level as practice. So for example, maybe you are good until level 9, but then it becomes just too fast. In Chill, you can keep trying without fear of a Game Over screen.
Every mode has its own leaderboard and rating so you can chase a high score for yourself, with friends, or against the world.
The other modes also allow the player to choose a scene or a playlist of scenes. This allows you to select your favorite and stick with it. My favorite scene is called Forest Dawn. It’s set against a rainy forest backdrop with subtle music and nature sounds. The only thing missing is a hint of petrichor.
Other customizations are available to tailor the experience as well. The hold slot9 can be toggled on or off. The tetromino colors can resemble more traditional colors, bypassing the current scene selection for visual clarity. The playfield default zoom can be set. There are plenty of options to mold the game to whatever is most comfortable, which makes it really inviting.
I really wanted to experience the VR aspect of Tetris Effect before I formalized my opinion10 for the game overall. It may just be me, or it could be the current state of VR technology11, but it didn’t radically change my opinion of the game. It was definitely more focused than playing on a TV, but overall it wasn’t any better or worse. It’s definitely worth experiencing once, but it didn’t sell me on the VR prospect as much as I was anticipating.
A Tetris Classic
I haven’t been this swooned by a Tetris release in years1213. I love this game. It inspires me to play more Tetris. There are only two downsides of this game: it has no multiplayer component, and it’s only available on a Playstation 414. The lack of multiplayer is acceptable. This is a personal version of Tetris, and the more intense nature of competitive Tetris would detract from this game’s mission statement. But it’s not necessarily a game enjoyed alone. When I played a few times with others in the room, everyone was silently engaged with the puzzle game spectacle taking place.
This is a landmark game in the series. The game sets this in stone with a hidden secret: a new scene based off the classic Game Boy version, complete with the music you’ve had ingrained in your memory from when you were younger.