We are now a few years into this battle royale craze, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Fortnite is still an incredibly massive game, but Apex Legends has been rising in the ranks more recently. At this point in time in the craze, ideas on what properties should make their take on the mode starting coming into fruition. What if they made Splatoon royale? What about Halo royale? Or how aboutTetris royale? Well, one of these things is now a reality, and here I am talking about Tetris 99. No, this isn’t a fever dream, this is reality.
Just like every battle royale before, Tetris 99 is about surviving against 99 other players in…Tetris. How the royale aspect of the game works is that clearing two or more rows at a time will add garbage rows to whoever you are attacking. You can choose an opponent to attack by either selecting a specific opponent with the left stick or one of four options with the right stick: a random opponent, attack those who are attacking you, attack someone with the most badges (badges are earned by knocking out enemies and having more allows you pile on more garbage rows to opponents), or attack someone who is about to be knocked out. Other than that, it’s pretty much just Tetris.
To say this is the weirdest battle royale game I have played yet would be an understatement, and I have played a lot of battle royale games. This one also happens to be the most frustrating, most difficult, most bare bones, and most addicting one of those I have played yet, making my stance on this game a little murky. And despite having a lot of fun with the game, I honestly don’t really like it all that much.
When it comes to fully featured battle royale games, they are few and far between. Often times, the experience starts out with the essentials and build from there. Tetris 99 is the most bare bones royale experience I have had yet, even compared to Proxima Royale. You play Tetris and level up a number that gets nothing, and that’s about it. There aren’t many options in the settings, there isn’t a leaderboard other than one at the end saying how you did in that match compared to the others, there isn’t really anything except Tetris battle royale. I thought that there would at least be normal Tetris for offline play, but only the royale experience is offered. What this game also doesn’t have is a tutorial, which left me clueless as to how to play the game until I looked it up. Not even a simple title card with the basics is available, and this isn’t the type of game that is easy to learn as you go. You level up, but that number means nothing other than status. It didn’t take very long to hit that repetitive groove because there was nothing I was trying to work towards in the meta game, because there is no meta game.
I said earlier that the game is hard to learn through experience, and that’s because this game is hard as Hell. I was too busy concentrating on survival to worry about attacking other players. If you think you are any good at Tetris, throw that thought out of a window because this game will chew you up and spit you out. Part of this difficulty is the fact that there are better players, which made me want to keep playing to get better. Unfortunately though, I think a lot of the difficulty comes down to BS mechanics and luck. At any given time, you can see who is targeting you and how many badges they have, and most of the times I have died it was because everyone started targeting me, which didn’t really feel like a battle royale experience. This is a solo-only game, and having four or five other solo players target me specifically didn’t feel right. Also, I think the badge system leads to a lot of BS, because I could be minding my own business with only one other attacker when twelve garbage lines pop out of nowhere. Finally, I think the K.O. mechanic, while realistic, doesn’t feel right as well. If you have any chance of being close to being knocked out, anyone who has their attack set to K.O. will start targeting you, making recovery all-the-more difficult. I can see why that is in terms of getting people out and moving the game forward, but it still feels like a dirty move. There is a level of difficulty I enjoy in this game, but I feel a lot of it comes down to luck.
Despite my frustrations, I found this game to be quite addicting. It’s Tetris on steroids beating you with a baseball bat, and that’s fine. I felt like I was getting better as I was playing, which felt great. On top of that, I thought some of the smaller aspects of the game are pretty neat too. You see everyone else’s matrices off to the side which is pretty cool, and I think some of the attack types as well as the garbage block mechanic makes a lot of sense. When it comes down to it though, I think the thing that makes this game addicting is the Tetris part, not the royale part. While playing this game, I wanted to player other Tetris and Tetris-like games such as Tetris Effect, Dr. Mario, or even just straight up Tetris. As for this game, I think it could work well as a four-to-eight player competitive game, but 99 players is way too hectic.
Tetris 99 is a game I’m glad I played because it showed me just how bad I am at Tetris. Despite that and its addicting gameplay, I can’t say I enjoyed it all that much because of how frustrating some of the mechanics are and how badly I just wanted to play normal Tetris. I think this game could work as a local competitive game, but I don’t think this is a good battle royale experience. This game is free and I would say it’s worth a shot if you have a Switch, but just be prepared for how tough that game is.