The battle royale sub-genre of games has a new competitor in town. Going beyond the bounds of the shooter, The Tetris Company and Nintendo surprised the world with Tetris 99. Exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, 99 players enter one room and battle in block-dropping warfare until only one remains. Tetris in its base form is one of the greatest games of all-time, but how does it translate to the modern battle royale format?
As with standard Tetris, your goal is to drop blocks down a well and clear lines by creating rows filled with blocks. By clearing multiple lines with one block, you have the ability to send junk blocks to opposing players. It plays just like modern Tetris; T-spins and all.
With 98 other opponents, determining who gets your junk may be too much to handle. However, if you’re up to the task, you can use the left stick to aim your junk at a specific opponent. You can snipe someone that’s in a bad spot that way. However, there are ways of auto-targeting as well. By flicking the right stick in one of four directions, you can auto-target the person who is close to being knocked out, the player with the most badges, any players that are targeting you, or if you just want to watch the world burn, you can fling your junk blocks at random. Though I generally just set it at one of the auto-target settings, it’s great to have the flexibility to be as precise or as random as you want at any point in the match.
At times, you can get bounced out of a round pretty early by a coordinated attack. Though there’s no way to communicate with others, and you can’t squad up with friends, there will be infrequent instances where an insurmountable stack of garbage blocks will immediately push you out of the game. Just be mindful that the more KO’s and badges you score, the more of a target you become. Play well enough to keep your skin in the game, but flexing your muscles too hard may make you a bigger target.
That said, the difference between winning and losing will ultimately come down to your ability to stack neatly and quickly. Tetris can be a stressful game, but it’s only amplified as the player count starts to drop and the speed rises. By the end, the blocks are whizzing down the well at a brisk pace, and the tension that has built as competitors around you fall always makes for a thrilling climax.
Packaged as a free experience for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, Tetris 99 is the first killer app for the service. Though its nothing more than Tetris in a battle royale format, it’s nevertheless a thrilling new take on the classic that is sure to get the competitive juices flowing. Though there’s still much to gripe about Nintendo’s online experience, this is the first real incentive they’ve provided for signing up.
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