This is a game of Tetris battle royale, as you take on 98 other players in a game of Tetris. Complete single to multiple rows with tetrominoes, which in turn send attacks of garbage rows to knock other players out of the game. Be the last person left in the game to win.
I have to admit, I thought the premise of this game was both strange and stupid. A battle royale version of Tetris, I thought at first that it was a gimmick. Something that it’s trying to capitalize on the success of other battle royale games like Fortnite, Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBG), and the new Apex Legends. Something that couldn’t last, but it was a free game if you have the Nintendo Switch Online service. So I downloaded and played it. I have to admit, I felt that I was wrong. For the past month, it’s been a game that seems to have most of my attention and free time. It is an addicting, challenging and fun game for anyone and everyone.
The main menu is simple enough, you have the option to select the game Tetris 99. You have a Stats menu which tells your Tetris 99 or all stats, such as how many lines you cleared, KOed opponents, games played and Play Time. You also have an options menu which you can turn the Hard Drop (fast dropping of tetrominoes) on or off. You can turn on or off the controller vibration during your game. The control type pattern which only seems to switch the functions of the analog sticks if you’re playing with a pro controller or you lock the left or right joy con controllers to the Switch or a grip. I haven’t played with the left or the right joy con separately yet.
Selecting Tetris 99 takes you to the game itself. It’s, but that is the start of one of the gripes that I, and it seems many others, have. You don’t know how the game is played or the rules of the game, if this is your first time playing. Yes, it’s Tetris and the objective I stated before is how to win the game. Clear lines and don’t let the tetrominoes stack to above the top of your board. But it doesn’t tell you how to play or what your attack options are against the other players. While the game is loading up, there should have been something to tell you how to play the game or rules and tips while players are joining the game. I’ve only seen how to play the news section of my Switch menu a few weeks after the game was released. This should have been out at least the opening weekend of the game’s release I have pictured below:
I can tell you from what I read online, playing the game, and seen from other videos is to play it like a regular game of Tetris. Albeit playing the game against 98 players. When you clear two or more lines at once, you send garbage pieces or rows. These are lines with gaps that will fill up an opponent of your choice. You can select who you target by using the left or right joy con stick (depending on you play settings) and target players at random, if they are attacking you, are close to a K.O., or too whoever has the most badges. You can also tap the screen and select players on the fly if you are playing with the Switch in handheld mode.
As the game starts, the tetrominoes will drop slowly. You can rotate the blocks and place them wherever you like on the board. Whenever you clear a single line there is no points unless you chain individual lines together. Clearing double lines will send one garbage line, triple lines gets 2 garbage lines sent, and a Tetris (4 lines) sends 4 garbage lines. I don’t know what the lines sent are for combos so they will vary. Also whenever you complete a T-Spin, a maneuver when you place a Tetromino into a seemingly unfitted spot, you can send over addition garbage lines. I have not been able to do or master that technique yet. If you have a piece you also would like to use later, you can save it using the L or R triggers on the controller. So then, if you’d like to use that piece somewhere else, you can trade a currently dropping piece for one that you stored. You can only swap the piece once per time. So you can’t swap back once you pressed that L or R trigger and swapped out that tetromino.
As the game goes on, after 50 players are left, the tetrominoes will start to drop faster and faster as players are eliminated. This definitely adds tension, panic, and worry if you’re going to place that tetromino just right. It’s also when you need to be careful as accidentally pressing the hard drop or up on the D-pad may make you drop a tetromino where you didn’t mean to and are unable to recover your game. When you are down to 10 players, you are at the equivalent of level 9 Tetris from the NES game. All I can suggest is try to keep calm and try to rotate or switch pieces if you get stuck to give yourself a bit more time and go for the single lines only.
Whenever you can K.O. someone, you get a badge. Every two badges you earn gives you a boost on how much garbage rows you send to opponents. Each boost goes up in increments of 25% up to a maximum of 100%. If you can defeat someone you has badges already you get to claim all the badges that they earned for yourself.
Should you send over any garbage rows or get some on your game, they don’t go into effect right away. You have a timer as the rows that are about to hit you will turn from gray to yellow, to red, and finally flashing red indicates the row is about to be added. You can delay or even stop this by completing lines or chaining lines together on your board. Doing this won’t allow you to create garbage lines, but it will prevent attacks to your game. You have to move quickly and plan carefully, as I’ve seen up to several rows get added to your board at once if you hesitate.
For music, you get the “Tetris theme” Korobeiniki for a song. It is actually a Russian Folk Song of a story of a peddler and a girl meeting. Also referred to as “Type-A” song from it’s NES days. It’s a pretty catchy tune and a classic to listen to while playing Tetris. However, it’s the only song that plays when you are playing the game. This can get rather annoying at times, and I don’t know of any way that you can mute the song other than turning down the volume of the Switch or T.V. I don’t understand why they didn’t include the option for additional music in the game. The music does get a bit faster when 50 players are left in the game. There is another song that starts to play when you’re one of the last 10 players in the game. The song is a rearranged tune of Flight of the Bumblebee. Which is appropriate since you are in a frenzy with the pieces falling frantically and you trying to win. It just comes way too late in the game for some variety of music.
If I may offer some advice to everyone, who reads this or plays this game. Start the game by targeting random players. After you are about to get either a Tetris line or a string of combination lines going, then target players that are close to a K.O. Sometimes you will finish in the top 10 and other times you may end up in the bottom 95, don’t get frustrated and quit. I’ve been in both of those situations almost back to back. It’s just how the pieces will fall and what you may get. This game is excellent at being completely random and not giving anyone an unfair advantage. If you are also new, just start out completing single lines and working your way up to advance combos. Get a feel for the game and how the mechanics work. If you have any other advice on how the game is played or how you play the game, You can let me know in the comments.
The last thing I’d like to mention is I’m not sure what Nintendo’s strategy was or is with Tetris 99. It’s a free game, and there is nothing to buy. Unlike other battle royale games and “free to play” games, there are no microtransactions to make or to purchase. If this was a way to sell more online subscriptions to Nintendo’s Switches online service, it’s an odd strategy. If Nintendo fans who own a Switch want to play games online, they would already get it for games like Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, or even other free to play games like Fortnite. The only thing this seems to serve as is a courtesy thank you to the fans. It’s not a bad game at all, and I like it. In fact, a few weeks ago, they ran a competition over a weekend. If you were one of the top 999 players who won, you got about $10 in e-shop gold points. Beyond what I listed, I can’t see anyone going to Nintendo’s online service for this game.
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