We all know Ubisoft isn’t exactly on a winning streak lately, so it’s barely even worth the apophasis. Despite the reliability with which they’ve been churning out garbage these days, I doubt any of us were expecting they would drop the ball this hard on fucking Tetris. Before I played Tetris Ultimate, I heard people make the same remark, and thought “yeah, yeah, but it’s probably good enough to just crank out a few rounds of Tetris now and then”. It isn’t. This game is as broken as some of the classics. Think Action 52, think E.T.
When they announced Tetris Ultimate way back in the summer, I think, I was very hyped. Hyped because finally, I could have an official Tetris, with everything in it. The internet is bursting at the seams with indie Tetris games, but they’re all missing something. They’re all either clunky, don’t have a hard drop button, have some weird competitive thing going on like Cultris, or any other strange little nitpick that spoils the whole thing. No one seems capable of making a solid Tetris game (and yes, I know of Tetris DS).
And if Tetris Ultimate wasn’t a pile of shit, it would be the next great Tetris game for sure. It has all the modes that have come to be staples of official Tetris such as Sprint, Marathon and Battle. It has customizable repeat delay/speed options, hard drop, online play, medals – everything you need to be considered a nice Tetris “suite”.
The problems, however, start in right away. Everytime I launch the game and the first logo – Ubisoft’s – shows up, the whole thing freezes in the middle of its animation for about 15 seconds or so, the audio breaks completely, and then eventually it moves on. Once I’ve made it to the main menu, the audio is still having trouble, with frequent clicks and pops the likes of which I’ve never heard before in a console game. They’re the kinds of sounds I only hear when my dated computer’s reach is exceeding its grasp.
Moving around the main menu, I start to notice that certain buttons, such as the big “Play” button at the very top, make a much louder selection noise than other buttons. This might be a passable design choice, if the noise didn’t sound like it was only louder because of a glitch. It’s an awful sound, and painful in headphones.
What you’re presented with when you settle on a mode is certainly Tetris. When the game works, you’re totally playing it. Everything I can think of from a casual perspective is there (holding and hard dropping is about as deep as I go). However, it isn’t long before it happens for the first time – your frame rate takes a nosedive permanently, and if you’re lucky, the game crashes altogether.
I didn’t ever play any of those comically messy games of 2014, like Assassin’s Creed: Unity, The Master Chief Collection or The Crew, but if Tetris Ultimate is just a taste of that level of complete abomination, I wouldn’t like to try those games even ironically. Tetris Ultimate seldom passes up an opportunity to double-register button presses, drop frames left and right, lag multiplayer games out of existence, showcase its obviously completely broken sound engine, and outright crash to the dashboard.
How the fuck this happened is beyond me. I can understand messing up something like The Master Chief Collection, or at a stretch, Assassin’s Creed (though they have making those games for so long that I do begin to wonder). That 3D games even exist is a testament to just how much smarter than me people can be, but I’m sure that given a couple months and a license to Game Maker Pro, I could make a Tetris game that works better than Tetris Ultimate.
Even when Tetris Ultimate works, there’s plenty to complain about. For example, the music is some of the worst I’ve ever heard in a video game. How this music made it into a video game, published by fucking Ubisoft, instead of rotting on SoundCloud until the end of time is beyond me. Four or five melodies cycle hypnotically, unharmoniously and simultaneously, and climax at completely different times. Each melody’s crescendo is offset comically by another melody’s dip, and it all just sounds like a god damn mess. The actual Tetris theme is practically nowhere to be found, instead being rearranged and varied upon repeatedly. Totally lame.
More extremely frustrating nitpicks: when you unpause the game, you’re given 3 seconds to collect yourself before the tetrominoes start falling in earnest. Cool. The catch? You can’t see the fucking board during the countdown, negating the entire point of having a countdown to begin with. Now, instead of serving a purpose, it just takes a long time to unpause. Why???
When you get a combo or do a really sick pro move, it tells you. Nice. Where? In the middle of the board. You know, where you’re trying to put Tetris pieces. Right.
Somewhere in the beginning of the review I said that there are a lot of indie Tetrises out there, but none of them are really complete packages. Tetris Ultimate is the complete package, sure… but at what cost? Well, $10. I would recommend avoiding this garbage and downloading Cultris II for free. That game is alright.
Tetris Ultimate can be purchased on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo 3DS’s respective digital stores, and on the PC and PlayStation Vita sometime in 2015.
Ethics disclosure: This game was purchased by the reviewer.