Dueling Panels: Tetris Attack Review
Following in the tradition of the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2, where Nintendo takes a game not related to the Mario franchise and redoes it with Mario characters for the English release; Tetris Attack is a rebranded version of the puzzle game Panel De Pon featuring characters from Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. The game would later be redone once more on the N64 and GBC as Pokemon Puzzle League/Challenge.
Gameplay: 9 (Addictiveness 10/Depth 7)
Tetris Attack is a puzzle game in the same vein as Tetris and Dr. Mario. However, rather than puzzle pieces dropping from above, rows of panels rise from the bottom towards the top. Your objective is to swap them around to form rows or columns of three or more of the same panel to clear them. Clearing 4 or more panels at the same time is called a combo, and will net you more points, and in versus mode will drop garbage blocks on your opponent. Panels with nothing beneath them will fall until they land on another panel, and if clearing a group of panels causes a panel to fall and clear another group of panels, this is called a chain. Chains earn even more points than combos, the amount you receive multiplying depending on the number of chains formed from the initial clearing. Chains also drop garbage blocks on your opponent in Versus Mode, the size of the block determined by the size of the chain. Garbage blocks can only be cleared by clearing a group of panels that touch the block.
There are five 1 player game modes, Endless, Time Trial, Stage Clear, Puzzle, and Versus. Endless has you clearing panels for points while the speed gradually gets faster until the pieces reach the top. Time Trial is like Endless, but you have a two minute time limit; however clearing chains and combos will temporarily stop the clock. Stage Clear has you clearing levels hosted by each character, with 5 stages each. In puzzle, the panels are preset and you're tasked with clearing all of them within a certain number of moves. Versus serves as the games story mode, and has you playing against the CPU, defeating each character in turn to free them from the spell that has been placed upon them. With addictive gameplay and a variety of fun modes, this game has plenty of replay value and its password and save system allows you continue where you left off, so it's a great time killer if you have limited time or a lot of time.
The graphics in this game mostly consist of backgrounds, which are still and feature characters and environments related to the character you are playing. They aren't too flashy or distracting, allowing you to focus on the colorful panels.
With the exception of the title theme, Yoshi's themes, and the game over theme which are arrangements of music from Yoshi's Island; this game's music is the same as Panel De Pon. Despite this, the music seems to fit quite well with the characters, with almost every character receiving their own theme. The musical score is above average, vivid and memorable melodies that will stay in your head and set the ambiance nicely. This is good, because in some of the modes, endless in particular, you'll be hearing the same music track for some time. When the panels approach the top, the stage music will change to a panicked version of the track, and the panels themselves begin shaking in an attempt to make you panic. Each character also receives their own sound effects when performing chains and combos.
The only story in this game is in one player versus mode. Bowser and his cronies have invaded Yoshi's Island and put a spell on Yoshi's friends. Now he must free them by beating them in a puzzle game, before taking out Bowser's underlings and the big boss turtle himself. It isn't much in the way of story, but the dialogue at the end of hard mode is cute and good for a short laugh.
The difficulty of this game depends on your ability to perceive all of the panels and quickly work out how to align them to score large chains and combos. Each mode has various difficulties, getting progressively harder as you go along. Versus mode in particular can be truly frustrating, with Bowser on very hard easily dropping massive garbage blocks on you that fill the entire screen. If you don't work fast, you'll lose before you have a chance to send any back. In other modes, the speed at which the panels ascend can become manic, testing your ability to not panic under dire conditions. Whether you're looking for an easy time or a difficult game bordering on insane, Tetris Attack delivers.
Tetris Attack has appeal to both casual gamers and hardcore puzzlers alike. Its characters and graphics make it fun for the whole family, and the music will keep you humming long after you turn off the game. The gameplay is addictive with a variety of modes, including a 2 player mode so you can challenge your friends. While there isn't much in the way of story, the game has a lot to offer and is an excellent time killer. Truly worthy of the name Tetris, with gameplay possibly surpassing that of its namesake.