Parents need to know that “Tetris 99” is a downloadable online game for the Nintendo Switch in which 99 randomly matched players compete to be the last player standing. Players attempt to fit falling blocks into partially completed lines at the bottom of the screen as fast as they can in order to clear lines from the board. Play fosters a spirit of friendly competition among opponents while satisfying the natural human urge to make order out of disorder. There’s no violence, sexuality, or strong language, and players can’t interact with one another. While this game is free for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, it could further encourage non-subscribers to pay for Nintendo’s online service in order to gain access.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
“Tetris 99” is essentially the same puzzle game that’s been around for decades with a simple modern twist: online play against nearly 100 randomly selected opponents. The primary objective is to maneuver falling blocks called tetrominoes into position so that when they land, they interlock with existing pieces to form between one and four lines at a time, which are then cleared from the board. Other players are doing the same thing, and you can actually see tiny images of their screens arranged in a grid around yours. You’ll frequently be targeted by these other players, meaning that if another player clears two, three, or four lines at a time, then “garbage” lines will appear at the bottom of your screen, pushing existing lines higher. You can’t choose specific targets, but you can choose a type of target by using the right stick to select either random players, players who are targeting you, those close to defeat, and those who possess badges, which are earned if you happen to knock another player out by sending them more garbage than they can handle. Once the lines in your grid reach the top of the screen, it’s game over. At the end of the game players are ranked based on their performance, and experience points are earned that allow players to level up.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
Think of this game as battle royale for puzzle lovers. Tetris 99 builds off the currently in-vogue concept of having 100 players battle against each other until just one is left standing, except that instead of using guns and grenades, they’re putting their ability to quickly and efficiently stack blocks to the test. Veteran Tetris players will find the action very familiar — the strategy hasn’t changed at all. It’s a bit stressful, but — as has always been the case with Tetris — also deeply satisfying.
Competing against 98 other players is really just a way of taking pride in your existing or evolving skill. Rookies may be among the initial players knocked out during their first few games, but it won’t take them long to begin climbing the ladder and leveling up. That matches are typically over in just a handful of minutes just makes the experience all that much more habit forming, as it urges us to jump back in and see if we can do better next time. “Tetris 99” proves that just a little variation on a proven recipe can breathe fresh life into a beloved classic.
RATING AND CONTENT
Recommended for ages 8 and older
Quality: 4 out of 5
Positive messages: 3 out of 5
Positive role models: 0 out of 5
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Ease of play: 3 out of 5
Violence and scariness: 0 out of 5
Language: 0 out of 5
Consumerism: 2 out of 5
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Pricing structure: Free (This game is free, but only available to players who subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online.)
Developer: Nintendo of America
Release date: February 13, 2019