It's safe to say that developer Bigben Interactive has been hard at work, relentlessly churning out adaptions of all manner of board and arcade games as part of a range of "Best Of" titles. While it might seem redundant to try and recreate the mighty Tetris on a Nintendo handheld of all places, Tetraminos is arguably Bigben's largest departure from the original formula to date.
The game is entirely linear, having removed the guts of the classic Tetris you know and love so that gameplay can be broken up into a pre-determined set of levels. There are just over 50 in total, and it comes as a surprise to see that the original game mode where you play for points and try to survive for as long as possible is nowhere be found. Instead, Tetraminos feels like an extended mini-game variant, where most of your time is spent clearing away junk blocks before swiftly moving on to the next layout.
Anyone even slightly familiar with the original will find that turning and placing blocks works about as well as you could expect; with solid controls that allow for snappy descents and last-minute decisions in equal measure. What's immediately off-putting, however, is the fact that none of the actual pieces feel as satisfying to click together as they should. But oh no, silly us! These aren't the iconic tetrominoes at all - these are Tetraminos. Bigben has provided a handful of new pieces to use, which vaguely mirror the shapes that players are used to, but jut out at awkward angles that go against your familiar puzzle instincts. You never get used to just how different some of these pieces actually are, with arrangements that always seem either too big or too small. While we welcome a fresh take on the formula, this unfortunately feels like you're playing with the scraps left over in the toy box after the big Tetris bully took all the good ones.
Even when playing with bootleg pieces, clearing lines is still satisfying, though there's almost no emphasis on point scoring here at all. Your sole focus is moving on to the next level and starting from scratch, not waiting for that perfect moment to clear multiple lines at once and rack up a combo. What points you do earn can be spent at an in-game shop, which grants power-ups for a set price per level. Ranging from ghost outlines to a barrage of block-breaking bombs, they'll help out in a pinch but don't really add much to your overall strategy.
The relative uselessness of power-ups is mostly due to the fact that Tetraminos desperately wants you to follow a set pattern of moves specific to each level, without deviation. Although this is never specifically stated or even implied, we found that many levels were structured in such a way that they could be cleared in very few moves - just as long as they're the right ones. Since the game doles out blocks in a specific order each time, it's not unlikely that the player is expected to learn exactly what goes where, and follow this pattern in order to complete the level. Playing "normally" will drag levels out into long, frustrating affairs, because it strongly discourages random placement, especially in later stages.
Aesthetically, there's a bit of a neo-Tokyo vibe going on, with robots and bright lights serving as the background throughout. What few music tracks there are generally match the theme, but even in 3D it fails to make much of an impact. Having said that, it's probably one of the more lively backdrops in comparison to other Bigben titles, as the robot does a little dance every time you clear a line. Cutting-edge technology confirmed!
Once again, we have to mention the ridiculous asking price - as launch - for such a basic package. At a cost of £8.99/€9.99 at the time of writing, you're getting a pretty cheap experience with limited replay value in comparison to plenty of other versions out there. A little structure helps set this apart from outright clones - especially a fun physics based level or two in particular - but not enough to justify paying anywhere near that amount. It's technically sound, but so low on content that it cheapens the entire experience.
Tetraminos strips back the formula into a modest single-player experience, but fails to go anywhere compelling with it outside of a few stray powerups and level variants. Clearing blocks can be fun, once you get your head around the awkward pieces and unforgiving layouts, but at the end of the day - it's pretty difficult to mess up such stellar source material in the first place. Once again, Bigben should be handed a long list of faults that have run throughout the entire "Best Of" series, but these shortcomings are particularly disappointing in a game that could have been a decent bit of fun... at a much lower price, of course.