Xbox Live Arcade fans are drowning in the sorrow of manipulative development strategies. Only months ago, Tetris Evolved was released at an affordable price-range, for the 360. Things were fine. Sure the game was a bare-bones package, with about 15 backgrounds to distract you from the fact that THQ barely improved upon the title since Tetris Worlds was released circa original Xbox launch. But the graphics are sharp enough and there are 1,000 Achievement points to come by.
Now Tetris Splash is taking you to the bottom of a fishtank. The aquarium background is standard screen-saver fare. There isn’t a good enough reason in the world to base a game around a non-interactive background. Even if it were justified, the magnified Aqua-colored gameplay screen makes the uninspired background into a mere border. What’s left is an outline of unidentifiable fish passing on by. That is, unless you throw down some cash for additional unidentifiable fish. If you would like to fill the fish tank (why the hell would you want to do that?) your total for the complete Splash offering will come to approximately * 1,800 Microsoft Points. That’s mostly for decorating the background of a damn puzzle game. If you’re sensible, a real fishtank could be filled for just about the same price.
Tetris Splash’s saving grace is obvious: it’s a Tetris game. As long as there is money to be exchanged and blocks to be arranged at the bottom of fishtanks, there will always be Tetris. But gameplay-wise, this is Tetris, Marathon Tetris, and that’s the entirety of the game. Marathon Tetris is self-explanitory. No time limit. Lots of puzzle pieces. Of course, there’s Live play, but your competition will be reduced to four screens which are extremely hard to see, in their minimal scope. Whereas customizable controls may be a throwaway option in a puzzle game, it’s frustrating that they’ve been disabled for Xbox Live.
“I know the pieces fit, ’cause I watched them fall away…”
On the positive side, the allure of an aquatic theme is tempting. Whereas console-released Tetris games have cast a multitude of unnecessarily distracting themed backgrounds, Splash’s simplicity is it’s main draw. While both Evolution and Splash are terribly disappointing value-wise, you might as well just pick up a full game for that kind of money. But don’t you already own some forgotten spin-off of the franchise?
A recent offering such as Tetris DS or even a last generation pickup (I.E. Tetris Worlds will offer a plethora of options right out of the box for the same price as Tetris Splash’s complete XBLA Marketplace offerings. While the formula may never grow old, purchasing its incarnations is becoming rather trivial.
* Microsoft points can only be purchased in limited increments of 500, 1,000, 2,000, and finally, 5,000. Downloading Tetris Splash’s content (in its entirety) comes to roughly 25 USD / 17 EUR.
Six out of ten
- Conceptually, Tetris is still the most inviting and simplistic puzzler around.
- A lot of money for only a little content.
- Wasn't Tetris Evolved just released only a few months ago?