I treated Tetrisphere poorly in the past. It was a childhood game of mine, but lacking Dutch instructions or the patience to deal with puzzle games, it was also the one game in my collection that I “hated”. I basically never played it and I grew up relatively poor, so those few games I had really needed to last. Now that I am older and have at least some patience, I figured the time was right to revisit this game.
It’s Tetris… but spherical! That’s not entirely true. While there were many clones of Tetris, the only element that Tetrisphere borrows is the concept of blocks.
In a game of Tetrisphere you are faced with a planetoid constructed out of blocks. Generally, your objective will be to dig down to the sphere’s core, with alternate objectives based on which game mode you are playing. To do this, you need to place a new block so that it forms a pattern with at least two others of its kind. That sounds tricky—especially when you’re 6-years-old—but it’s quite obvious once you try it yourself and get a feel for the rules.
There are quite a few string attached to it, you see. For example, blocks only count as adjacent when a whole side of it aligns with another. For example, straight line blocks will need to be perfectly lined up against each other or stacked, otherwise they “break” the pattern. You also need to be able to place your block in a position where it matches this pattern, which can get a lot harder when you start creating pits and overhangs on your planetoid.
You are also timed throughout this process. A timer ticks down constantly and will claim one of your three lives if it reaches zero. Making a play extends the timer slightly, with bigger combos giving you more time. This makes trying to set up a great combo risky, but also incredibly rewarding when you pull it off. The game will even menacingly zoom into the sphere as the timer ticks down, which never fails to make me panicky. You also lose lives if you place blocks that don’t match with anything or, in multiplayer, if you place blocks adjacent to dark blocks.
The game also has items that you can find hidden somewhere in the sphere, or which you receive as a reward when making a combo with 20 blocks or more. These come in various different shapes, but all of them serve the same general purpose of clearing out a whole bunch of blocks at once. A nice reward for those that don’t just single-mindedly dig downward.
Tetrisphere is a lot simpler to understand now that I am older and it gets quite challenging in the later singleplayer levels. Finding the right balance between setting up good plays and playing fast is essential. It’s manageable when you just have lines and squares to work with, but eventually the shapes get more complicated and mixed together. You won’t be able to move blocks because they get stuck on others and combos get harder to pull off when there is more types of blocks in play.
Multiplayer makes this even more intense. Not only do combos help you, they also drop dark blocks on the other player’s field to deal with. They can only get rid off them by indirectly hitting them in a combo, at which point those blocks get bounced right back to their sender. It’s a fun back and forth that rewards skillful play, while not completely leaving players who prioritize speed out in the cold.
Once it clicks, Tetrisphere becomes an amusing game with a strong difficulty curve to it. The initial levels are easy enough that young players can get a feel for it, while later ones will be quite the test. The versus mode makes it an appealing title to introduce friends to as well, which is always sure to bring out a competitive mood. Even solo, however, I regularly find myself with an urge to play a few rounds of Tetrisphere. It may not be the flashiest or most modern take on Tetris, but its unique premise holds strong to this day. Tetrisphere 2 when?