Let's Play Structris

August 4th, 2014 12:00 PM
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KansasFest is a week over, and all I have is memories.

Memories — and an awesome mug.

For the second consecutive year, attendee Michael Sternberg hosted a Structris tournament based on his version of Martin Haye's original Tetris game. I entered and, after a poor showing in 2013, rebounded in 2014: I had the highest score in the first round (100 points); went up against the reigning champion and broke the world record in the second round (249 points on level 17); and, in the third and final round, defeated the developer himself. It was pretty epic.

To give something back, I've created a Let's Play video of Structris, coinciding with last week's 25th anniversary of the North American launch of the Nintendo Game Boy, which came with Tetris. Enjoy!

Watch Steve Wozniak dominate at Tetris

April 15th, 2013 11:05 AM
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Steve Wozniak is said to have created the Apple because he wanted to play arcade games at home. But the Apple wasn't Woz's only game machine; he was highly addicted to the Game Boy, Nintendo's handheld that came packaged with the puzzle game Tetris. For as long as the official Nintendo Power magazine printed gamers' high scores, Woz reigned supreme as Tetris champion.

Now you can watch him tell the story himself as he revisits his favorite game. The digital edition of latest issue of Game Informer magazine features a video of Steve Wozniak getting his Tetris on while he recounts his encounters with the game and his evangelization of the Game Boy to world leaders of two decades ago.

From Woz's repeated exclamations of "Uh, oh — I'm in trouble here!" and the lack of direct screen capture, it's hard to tell if Woz is still the Tetris master he was in his youth. But it's nonetheless fun to watch his boyish amusement with the world continue to shine.

More Tetris and Not Tetris

October 29th, 2012 6:33 AM
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Two years ago, I discovered Not Tetris, a physics-based puzzle game inspired by the classic that so addicted the Woz. It was a cute variation on the original, but since the trademark line-clearing mechanic of Tetris was absent, it offered little replay value.

The creatively named sequel, Not Tetris 2, resolves that issue:

Not Tetris 2 is the spiritual successor of the classic Tetris mixed with physics. The result is a fun spinoff in which blocks are no longer bound to the usual grid. Blocks can be rotated and placed at any angle, resulting in a complete mess if not careful. And with the newest cutting edge technology, Not Tetris 2 allows line clears when the lines are sufficiently filled. The old mode is still available for play and is now called Stack.

Stack mode simulates the original Not Tetris, making it obsolete in the face of the sequel. The implementation of the line-clearing function is strange, though. It seems to clear individual lines of pixels, not blocks, and can occur well below where the current piece has been placed, as if the pile were being jostled into completion.

A typical Not Tetris 2 playing field,
after some lines have been cleared.
The results of my first round of
Not Tetris 2.

But it's still a fun game with all the familiar graphics and tunes, including one I recognized from a Tetris-themed video on the history of the USSR — a popular Russian folk song, perhaps?

Not Tetris 2 is available for Windows, Linux, and OS X, with the separate Löve extension no longer needed for the Windows and Mac versions. The game is courtesy of Maurice Guegan of Stabyourself.net (which describes itself as "Commodore 64 compatible"), creator of the Mario / Portal mashup Mari0.

If you prefer your Tetris a bit more hardcore and unadulterated, check out Ecstasy of Order, a documentary about Tetris champions that I caught at last month's BostonFIG:

Or, if you want to kick it old school, watch hard floppy drives play the Tetris theme song. (Hey, if they can do Star Wars, why not Tetris?)

It's good to see a game that's survived long enough to have had an official Apple II incarnation continue to be enjoyed and innovated!

The physics of Tetris

September 6th, 2010 11:18 AM
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It wasn't until 1989 that I first encountered what I identified as a puzzle game: Adventures of Lolo on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. That was the same year as the release of the Nintendo Game Boy, whose pack-in title, Tetris, was a far more common introduction to the genre for most American gamers. And it was this game that the legendary Steve Wozniak became a master of, to the point of his high scores being printed in Nintendo Power magazine.

Though it was Nintendo's handheld system that popularized the Russian puzzler, the software had already been making the rounds on various computer platforms. In 1988, Spectrum Holobyte (1983–1998) released the Apple II version, which actually came on three disks, one for each operating system: DOS 3.3, ProDOS, and GS/OS. No matter what version you played or what system you played it on, Tetris was an addictive experience, due in part to a variety of subtle yet effective psychological qualities that perfectly complement humans' natural capabilities and limitations. Not only did gamers start seeing tetrads everywhere they looked, but the game had actual, physiological, positive impact on the human brain.

A game with so many scientific implications cries out for further study and applications. Software developer Maurice Guegan has answered that call with a fascinating and hilarious variation that he has dubbed Not Tetris. The game, a free download for Windows (and, when paired with a utility called LÖVE, for Mac and Linux), applies some degree of real-world physics to the falling blocks. Not only does this newfound inertia make it more difficult to rotate the pieces, but gravity makes it nearly impossible to form complete lines. In fact, Guegan has completely disabled that functionality, replacing it with a new goal of seeing how many game pieces you can stack before the inevitable game over.

Having a hard time visualizing this new spin on the classic formula? Here's some gameplay footage.

Not Tetris is worth a play for its original and innovative take on Tetris. For more standard gameplay, the GNO Apple II Archive has entire folders in both its Apple II and Apple IIGS games directories dedicated to Tetris clones, including Dreamworld's most excellent two-player DuelTris.

If that's not quite retro enough for you, check out Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov's original Tetris. For more about Tetris's tangled history, see the chapter "From Russia With Love" in David Sheff's excellent history of Nintendo, Game Over: Press Start to Continue.

(Hat tip to Nintendo Life: Retro)