TETRIS games

(This month we inaugurate a new column in My Mac, The Game Guy’s, with our two resident game playing experts, Adam Karneboge and Mike Wallinga! Sit back, relax and enjoy their hard work.)

MIKE: Tetris was one of those overnight classics. The minute it came out, everyone knew it was something special.It can be ranked up there with the likes of PacMan, Space Invaders, and the Mario Brother’s series as being one of THE great video games of all games.

The premise of Tetris, for those of you out there who don’t know, is to fill a blank, empty playing area with oddly shaped bricks. Or, to be more precise, your goal is to avoid filling up that playing area. However, this is easier said than done, because those bricks are dropping down from the sky, eagerly eating up precious real estate, and there’s nothing you can do to stop the rain. Your only defense is to line up the blocks correctly and create solid rows, which then disappear and free up more room. To my knowledge, you CAN’T beat this game, you can just survive perpetually. After all, that’s the addictive part — seeing how long you can stay alive and how many rows of bricks you can clear.

One of the prices of popularity and quality is imitation. On every video game platform imaginable, Tetris has had several versions, clones and copycats. The Mac is no different. Not that this is a bad thing, however. I think it’s wonderful that I can switch between writing a report for school and killing a little time playing Tetris with just a click of the mouse, particularly with so many good Tetris clones out there for the Mac.

ADAM: Tetris. A long time favorite of so many people. Now, it has come to the computer. With so many kinds of Tetris games out there, which one is best? That depends on what kind you like. Here we have reviewed 3 Tetris games that are alike in some ways, but different in others.

TETRIS MAX version 2.8
by Steve Chamberlin
Shareware $10.00

ADAM: I played each one of these games for a long time. I liked them all, but I found myself playing one more than the rest. I am a fan of classic Tetris, and for that, Tetris Max version 2.8 takes high honors. With all the classic Tetris favorites, plus very appealing music, it is really a winner. I found myself humming the superb music, really addicting. The graphics are excellent, they change as you advance to the next level, very entertaining. The sound effects fit what they “sound” for, and you can customize the control keys (which I personally like), great for people used to other controls. Also very appealing is the next box, which shows you what kind of block will fall next. This does make the game easier, but it also makes it more enjoyable. The game shows high score lists, to 10 levels,and a much harder game then the other two games reviewed. It uses about 650K of RAM minimum, 1400K recommended, file size is about 500K. While it was blazing fast on my Power Mac, it was slow on my ‘030 Mac.

MIKE: Tetris Max IS how Tetris is supposed to be. It is almost exactly the arcade classic, verbatim. There are, of course, your basic block shapes, your basic playing area, and your basic background, scoreboard, etc. To some extent, if you’ve seen one Tetris game, you’ve seen ’em all. It’s the frills and options that set one game apart from another. Tetris Max has tons of these, and that’s why it comes out ahead of the pack.

The graphics are simplistic, but they don’t need to be otherwise. After all, how much graphical eye candy can you have when the only objects in the playing field are blocks? Still, each different block configuration has its own color, and the blocks have this neat textured look to them. The backgrounds to the playing field also are great. They’re nice-looking and follow the theme and mood of the music. I wouldn’t mind some of the backgrounds as desktop patterns, myself. One really cool feature is that the background changes every time you move up a level — that is, every time you reach a multiple of 10 in lines cleared.

The background music, by Peter Wagner, is top notch, and sounds like Tetris music should sound. I mean, come on, we wouldn’t want the theme song from Friends playing in the background, would we? If you aren’t content with the included background music, Mr. Chamberlin even tells you how to make and add your own music, which requires the use of ResEdit.

You wouldn’t think Tetris Max would need much in the way of sound effects, but it makes use of them very effectively. From the “clonk” of the bricks as they fall, to the noise made when a line disappears, to the “moo” (yes, as in the sound made by a cow) that sounds whenever you increase a level, all of the effects are well done.

I wasn’t too crazy about the original keyboard controls, but that was OK. In Tetris Max, you can set the controls for any keys you want to. That isn’t the only option you have, either. You can decide to turn on or off the background music and sound effects, and set the volume level. You have an option of seeing your next piece ahead of time or not. You can choose to start a game at a higher level, or choose to have lines of debris at the bottom of the playing field at the start of the game. There’s even a “practice” option, although I’m not sure why. You can choose what level you want to practice at, but other than that the only difference between practicing and playing an actual game is the fact that you don’t keep score during practice.

Rounding out the features of the game are a high score chart and well-organized online help, which can also be saved as a SimpleText file. Tetris Max 2.8 is PowerPC-native, and runs fine on 680×0 systems, too. It requires 1400K of RAM, possibly more if you add your own music files, and takes up 1.2 Megs of hard drive space decompressed. The shareware fee is $10, a very reasonable amount, if you ask me. The author, Steve Chamberlin, can be reached at granola@aol.com.

TETRIS PLUS version 1.0
by Greg Fudala

ADAM: The next game is Tetris Plus, version 1.0, which is a kind of different game. It is based on the classic Tetris, housing all the same shapes, but with a different goal. The goal of this game is to match each color together, three in a row, and then the blocks explode. I had a hard time understanding this concept and didn’t like how the game is so different from the other Tetris games. The graphics were good, but got kind of boring after some of the later levels. Music was good, which made the game more enjoyable. Sound effects were the best part of the game, Awesome!!! It also shows high scores on a 10 level status. It requires about 1000K of RAM minimum, recommends 1100K, file size is about 300K. Overall, it was a very enjoyable game to play. For all of you who like something off the original concept, this is your ticket.

MIKE: Just like any good game, movie, or television series, Tetris has had its share of sequels and spin-offs. One such sequel was the aptly named Tetris 2, which came up for most of the major video game systems. Well, Tetris Plus by Greg Fudala, is more or less the Macintosh version of that game.

Tetris Plus will run on more or less any system. As the author states, it requires at least a Mac Plus, either a black and white or color screen (that just about covers it, now, doesn’t it?), System 6 or 7 (any System 5 users out there?), and 1100K free RAM. The last requirement is the only stipulation I see being any problem at all, unless there’s still a few 512K Mac users out there…

Tetris Plus, like Tetris 2, is a little different than the original. The goal here is to arrange red, green, and blue blocks of the same color horizontally or vertically, three or more in a row. Once this is done, the blocks will explode. Some pre-positioned blocks have black dots on them; these are fixed blocks, and all of these must be cleared before you can advance a level. Some fixed blocks flash, and are called flash blocks. Clearing one of these from the playing field clears ALL fixed blocks of that particular color, which can be a big help to you.

Tetris Plus, although not quite as rich on options as Tetris Max, still has plenty to go around. The keyboard controls are user-definable, and the player can also choose what level to start the game at. The background music can be turned on or off, and the volume controlled. There is a high score feature, and online documentation, too.

The music in Tetris Plus is also very well done, and the sound effects are cool. There’s the crashes and the crunches as you lay the blocks down, of course. There’s also spoken words, such as “yes” when you succeed in removing two block patterns in the same move, and “impressive” when you take out three with one blow.

In Tetris Plus, you also race against time. The sooner you complete each level, the more bonus points you receive. Take too long, though, and you’ll be seeing a NEGATIVE bonus. In other words, if you don’t finish the level soon, you’ll be penalized for finishing!

This game is definitely worth a look. Although I can’t say it’s quite as much fun as Tetris Max, Tetris Plus is still an exceptional game. Best of all, it’s freeware. Even though you don’t have to pay him anything, you can still drop Mr. Fudala a note saying how great his game is. His email address is 74003.65@compuserve.com.

APPLE TETRIS version 1.3
by Bobby Kolling
Shareware $10.00

ADAM: The last game that I played is APPLE TETRIS version 1.3. Again, it is a classic Tetris game, housing all of the same shapes, only the blocks are made of the “Copland” style Apples. It has a very attractive interface, with nice fonts but they do need more of a theme to them. It only shows high scores on a 10 level status. It requires about 384K of RAM minimum, recommends 484K, file size is about 91K. The major weaknesses in this game are the lack of the “next” box, which the other two games have, and the lack of music and sound effects, which make a game more enjoyable to play. It also lacks the customizable controls, which make the game more comfortable. All of these features are scheduled to be included with version 2.0, expected out by July. Large shareware fee for what you do get.

MIKE: Apple Tetris is yet another variation on a popular theme, and a unique one at that. All of the playing pieces are Apples!!! Apples as in Macintosh apples, with the neat rainbow stripes. They also all have that cool Copland three-dimensional look, a la the Apple Menu icon for those of you who have Greg Landweber’s ~Aaron extension installed. Otherwise, Apple Tetris is, well, Tetris. It’s just not quite as feature rich as some of the other games out there.

Lack of features does help Apple Tetris in one respect — its size. The entire package is only 212 K decompressed, so it makes for both a small footprint on the hard drive and a small initial downloading time. (It could be noted that it could’ve been even smaller — the application itself is only 95K in size. This is being pretty picky, but making the documentation a 108K, two-page DOCMaker file is a little overdone. A Read-Only SimpleText file would’ve sufficed in my mind. The Registration form is a SimpleText document, after all…) Apple Tetris also only wants 484K of RAM, and can run under 384K. So, Apple Tetris is good for a small, quick fix, and for those of you out there with small hard drives and low RAM situations.

That’s the bright side, anyway. However, there’s quite a few things Apple Tetris is missing. For starters, there’s no music at all. None! No sound effects, no background song, nada! Next, the key controls are set in stone, and I’d much rather be able to set my own controls, thanks. Also, you are only told your score — not your level or how many lines you have cleared. For this Tetris player, lines cleared is of more importance than my actual score, and not having this feature annoyed me. You can only rotate the blocks one way, instead of either clockwise or counterclockwise. You are not even given the option of seeing your next piece. Finally, the game remembers a high score, but only the top one, not the top ten like the other two games.

That’s not to say the game is bad. It’s Tetris, true to form. The Apple pieces are a novelty, and a fun one at that. However, adding just a few more frills would’ve made this game great. Some of these features, such as music and a next-piece window, are scheduled to be coming in version 2.0, which the author tells us was supposed to be out on June 22. So, give version 2.0 a look, and then make a final decision. I know that’s what I’ll do. Until then, though, I can’t justify paying a $10 shareware fee for Apple Tetris, especially when Tetris Max is the same price. By the way, Mr. Kolling can be reached at macgod@earthlink.net.


ADAM: As I stated before, it all depends on what you prefer. But for fans of the classic Tetris game, TETRIS MAX is the winner.

MIKE: You really can’t go wrong with any of these games if you’re a Tetris fan. Every one of them offers something just a little bit different, and they’re all great programs in their own right. As for myself, I’m keeping Tetris Plus on my drive, especially because it’s free and I don’t have to feel guilty about not paying for it. Tetris Max is the winner, though, because of it’s rich feature set, loads of options, loyalty to the Tetris concept, and all-around fun. Mr. Chamberlin, my check is in the mail.

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