The new mobile Tetris is a travesty

A few more technical notes as I’ve unfortunately put more time into N3TWORK’s Tetris: it does use guideline scoring, which I assumed but… the awkward placement of the score made it hard to confirm (and it gives no notification for any moves other than Tetris); leveling is fixed-goal (which makes sense: you lose faster and get to watch another ad!) and tops out at level 15 (EA’s Tetris used variable-goal leveling and didn’t max out); it never reaches nor approaches 20G (I’m pretty sure EA’s Tetris did; if it didn’t, it got far closer).

It’s probably pretty obvious by now that I love Tetris. Enough so that I was able to write a 1200-word post detailing my favorite Tetrises. It is, then, incredibly disheartening that I feel forced to write two posts in one month (back-to-back, even) about modern Tetris implementations that are just absolutely terrible. Unfortunately, this also renders part of the aforementioned list of favorite Tetrises outdated1. Until recently, Electronic Arts (EA) was the developer for Tetris on mobile. As of last year, the ridiculously-named N3TWORK is the exclusive rights-holder to mobile Tetris. Once upon a time, this would simply mean that EA could no longer make or sell a new Tetris game on the respective platform, but it’s 2020 and all technology is hell. So, as of April 21, 2020, EA’s mobile Tetris will simply… stop working. I’m sure EA was forced into some phone-home scheme that would allow such a thing to happen, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that the ability for such a thing to happen should be 100% illegal.

Capitalist technohell aside, there’s a new mobile Tetris in town! In my 2019 video game retrospective, I pointed out that “[a]pparently there’s a battle royale Tetris game coming to mobile as well, which is exciting.” This game (Tetris Royale) will, of course, also be made by N3TWORK, and I have to say… I am no longer excited. While EA’s mobile Tetris was essentially a perfect implementation, N3TWORK’s is an unplayable steaming shit. The controls are utterly broken – one’s finger must be lifted in between swiping sideways for lateral movement and swiping down for a hard drop. Bonuses aren’t acknowledged (I’m unsure if they’re scored properly or not at the moment) for T-spins, back-to-backs, or combos – only Tetrises. And visually, the game is a nightmare.

Compare these screenshots (EA on the left, N3TWORK on the right). EA’s app has a bunch of black space at the top and bottom, as it was never updated for X-sized iPhones. N3TWORK’s has been made for modern phones, but it… does nothing useful with that space. In fact, it is objectively worse because the score is floating so far away from the field. One of the big reasons that EA’s made my list of favorite Tetrises is the boxes for the next piece and hold. The backgrounds of these boxes are the same color as the piece, which means that if you know your Guideline colors, even the slightest hint of these out of the corner of your eye tells you the necessary information. N3TWORK’s does not do this. To be fair, this is also something I miss from all of the other implementations I enjoy. However, N3TWORK goes far beyond the normal level of disappointment by making their next and hold pieces nearly invisible to an eye focused on the grid. There is absolutely no reason for them to be so small, it’s just a foolish design decision that makes the game objectively less playable. On top of that, the colors in these boxes are absurdly pale, making color-based recognition difficult as well. It’s worth noting that there are five different skins. Of these, the one in the screenshot is the only one that bothers to color the hold/next boxes at all. It’s absurd. The bizarre pseudo-3D effect and half-baked ‘90s-hacker-film aesthetic are distracting (though fitting for a company called N3TWORK) and ugly, but that’s a personal opinion. You’d be hard-pressed to make an argument about the other aforementioned visual issues not making the game objectively worse to play at a high level.

EA’s Tetris also had excellent stats tracking, both per-game and over time. It would graph out scores over the course of a week or a month. It had some silly additional modes beyond Marathon, but for someone who primarily plays Endless Marathon at a relatively high level, it was the perfect companion. My stats didn’t carry over from my last phone, but I’m glad I cleared over 35,000 lines with EA’s Tetris on my current phone. I will keep an eye on updates to N3TWORK’s Tetris, but a lot would have to change for me to pay for it or even continue to play it for free. It is utterly, devastatingly disappointing.

  1. I’ll update it soon. That nota bene is about to get long. ↩︎