The Mario universe is Nintendo’s go-to solution for rebranding any game project that isn’t sufficiently exciting or too frighteningly new to them. We all remember Super Mario Bros. 2 and how that got thrown out in favor of putting a new coat of paint on Doki Doki Panic for the overseas releases. For Tetris Attack, something seems to have gone wrong. Panel de Pon was given the Mario treatment, but they forgot to actually put that in the advertising materials. This also makes it an accidental sequel to Yoshi’s Cookie, which also isn’t evident anywhere
Whereas Yoshi’s Cookie had players shifting around entire rows and columns in a square playing field, Tetris Attack has a rectangular play area where blocks rise upwards as time passes. Players move a cursor around that covers two blocks and can press a button to make these blocks swap places. If they line up 3 or more of the same blocks in a horizontal or vertical line, they disappear and grant points.
Like Yoshi’s Cookie, the game thrives in its competitive mode where 2 players take each other on. You have to keep your screen as empty as possible, but by making many blocks disappear at once or causing chain reactions where falling blocks immediately create new matches, you unleash attacks to harass the other player. Score big points and the other player will find piles of useless bricks dropping on top of their playing field, which only turn into regular blocks if they manage to create a match with any blocks directly touching these obstructions.
It’s less dynamic than Yoshi’s Cookie‘s diverse attacks you could unleash on your foes or which could backfire on you when ill-timed, but good riddance I say. Just knowing that playing well will cause problems for your opponent without having to check 2 different HUD indicators is way more fun.
Other modes are also present, some of them lifted from Yoshi’s Cookie, others entirely new. Puzzle mode returns where you must clear a static board in as few moves as possible and the VS mode against computers has been turned into a real story. You must battle all of Yoshi’s friends who have been mind-controlled by Bowser’s minions, then tackle a final series of matches against those villains using this band of friends. If you lose, that friend will not be available anymore, so they are kind of like extra lives for the final stage.
Besides those, there an Endless Mode where you keep playing for as long as possible while the difficulty keeps increasing, a time trial mode where you must rack up a lot of points with a set time limit, and Stage Clear, which is my favorite mode. You tackle a series of increasingly difficult stages that end when you get the blocks below the line.
The Yoshi branding makes this a very cute game with colorful backgrounds and cute art. The music is also pleasing, but sound-effects don’t always feel right and the artstyle is certainly not in line with Yoshi’s Island, for which this is allegedly a tie-in game. It’s not a big deal and it’s plenty enjoyable in its own way, but it’s peculiar to see Nintendo let this slide. I guess Yoshi is less high-profile to them than the plumber brothers themselves.
Tetris Attack is a perfect entry-level puzzle game for young (or new) puzzlers or those who just want to zen out with a pleasing and upbeat game. It’s a lot easier than Yoshi’s Cookie at the start, but with its difficulty levels and new format, it can get satisfyingly challenging by the end of a session in Endless mode. Competitively it’s still fun as well and could serve as a go-to game to play on the Super Nintendo when you have a fellow retro-loving friend visiting you. Be sure to have a second controller, or else you end playing singleplayer together like Stian and I had to.