Blocks fall down the screen and the player has to place them to make lines. Get a line and it disappears. Get multiple lines for extra points. Alexey Pajitnov’s falling block puzzle game has been ported to many different systems over the years, all essentially playing the same, only differentiated by the variety of modes available from version to version.
In V-Tetris, mode A is the standard “endless” mode of play where you try to get as many lines and points as possible. It starts off slowly, but every 10 lines the level moves up one and there's an increase in speed, so whilst you have plenty of time to decide where to place blocks at the start, in later levels, when your screen is filling up, things get a lot more difficult. If you fancy a bit more of a challenge from the off, your starting level can be adjusted from 0-19.
Mode B requires you to clear 25 lines, and again your start level can be altered (0-9) as can the amount of blocks already filling the screen. With only 25 lines needed to succeed it pays to try and get as many multiples as possible to increase your points haul.
These two modes appeared in the classic Game Boy port that had been released six years previously, not surprising considering developer Bullet-Proof Software was involved with both. Although V-Tetris loses the 2-player option of its predecessor, it adds a third mode of play.
Like the first, the third mode is endless and your starting level can be set from 0-19. The difference is that by using the L and R buttons (or right D-pad) the screen shifts a block left or right. It’s not possible to move it by holding the buttons down, so if you want to move more than one block you have to keep tapping, which is slightly annoying. The size of the playing field is doubled with any blocks in the currently unused area visible in the background. Think of the playing area as cylindrical and you will understand how it works. As it’s just the blocks that appear to move it seems a little strange at first but once you get used to it there’s a lot of fun to be had.
Having extra space within which to drop blocks at first seems to make things easier. After all, if there’s nowhere useful to put the current block you can just nudge the blocks along until you find either an empty space or somewhere to slot it in and get you a few lines. However, you soon find you have lots of potential lines being built up and as a piece begins to fall you have to think where would be the best place to put it. For instance, if a straight piece falls you have to decide whether to slot it into a two block gap for a guaranteed double, or tap away in the hope of getting to the opposite side of the playing area where there’s a potential tetris on offer.
In mode C you really have to get multiple lines: you can still get single lines but doing so causes a straight piece to fall in to the background area and of course it doesn’t land anywhere useful. Sometimes a single line is all you can get and it’s necessary to avoid filling your screen up, but it means you have to keep an eye on the background to make sure things aren’t getting out of hand over there.
Compared to some versions of Tetris three modes isn’t that many, but the three here are all good and will keep you occupied for some time. There are high score tables for all modes of play but unfortunately there is no save function, meaning your glory only lasts as long as the machine is switched on.
Graphically the playing area is what you would expect. It’s 2D and the red and black display means different patterns are used for the tetrominoes rather than colours. All the blocks change to the same pattern once in place and when you get a line it pushes forward slightly before disappearing. In mode C, the playing area looks a bit more 3D due to the blocks you can see in the background.
There are two backgrounds to choose from for each mode (one static, one animated) and they are in 3D, although only slightly, presumably not to be too distracting. They include things such as a star field, an underwater scene and a dragon outside a castle. In theory this keeps things varied, but of course once you really get into your game you’re not focusing on anything other than the playing area.
Sounds are what you would expect from a Tetris game as you rotate and drop blocks into place, but the music is disappointing. For modes A and B there are three tracks available or you can choose to play without; there’s a fourth track exclusive to mode C but bizarrely this is your only option.
The first track is a spacey sounding one. It whines a bit and is repetitive - although it’s not annoying it just doesn’t seem appropriate for Tetris. The second starts similarly but then does something different: though not as whiney as the first, it is however a bit too downbeat. The third track again has a spacey feel to it but it’s a lot more fun sounding, as is the mode C track. They both fit well with the game and don’t do anything to annoy although they aren’t particularly catchy – certainly not as memorable as Korobeiniki (Game Boy A-Type).
V-Tetris gains absolutely nothing from being on the Virtual Boy as the 3D effect is only really used for the backgrounds. The music could have been better and it’s harmed by not having a save feature for the high scores. However it’s still Tetris, which is as simple and addictive as it’s ever been and mode C is excellent.