I’m a big fan of Tetris from way, way back. But a Tetris game that’s about thumping and twisting rather than block stacking over time — can that work?
Bop It Tetris: On the plus side
At Hasbro’s launch of its Christmas Toy Lineup last week — which I covered for Kotaku, save for the Furby Boom due to an NDA that’s just expired — they showed off Bop It Tetris, the latest in a very long line of toys and games designed around Alexey Pajitnov’s influential tile stacking game. A very long line that includes some great games, and many, many mediocre ones. Why yes, Tetris Blitz, I was looking at you.
One of the things they handed my way to test out (disclaimer: Or in other words, I didn’t pay for it, make of that what you will, etc, yawn) was Bop It Tetris. Bop It Tetris is certainly something different. It kicks off with that tune, but then challenges you with a physical version of what is essentially Tetris’ endgame. It’s that bit when you know that owing to increasing speed and/or your own incompetence you’re going to fail, and you start flinging pieces around at high speed. There’s no subtle strategy here, just a lot of speedy decisions sliding pieces into place where they’ll fit.
The Bop-It toy itself is functionally two LED light arrays; one 2×2 and the other 2×4 “blocks” in size. The Tetronimos appear on the 2×2 light array and have to be matched into the 2×4 array within a very punishing time limit. Twisting up and down lines up the 2×2 square against each part of the 2×4 array, with a separate twisting control to turn the pieces, or select game modes when not in actual play.
It’s fast, and it’s frantic, and it’s quite good fun for very short bursts of play. The board, such as it is, clears after each piece is laid, so you’ve got to keep on your toes in order to spot the next gap. To give it some variety, every once in a while you’ll hit a bonus round where you’re tasked with using red blocks to destroy a 2×4 set of blocks, with more points for the most destruction.
Bop It Tetris: On the minus side
I’m an old school Tetris fan, and there’s only one actual Tetris block that measures in at 2×2, and that’s the flat square. This isn’t just a game about flat squares though, so you’ve got to make do with 2×1 arrangments with diagonals and the like. Call me a purist — because I am — but this isn’t quite proper Tetris. Something tells me they tested with the actual Tetris shapes and worked out that the more complex shapes would be a nightmare to place in the strict time limits.
The game talks to you — a lot — especially when you fail, with a chirpy American voice that I very quickly found grating. You can turn the volume down with a twisting motion pre-game, but that’s absolute. I’d kill for the ability to just kill the commentator but keep the iconic game noises intact.
It is, as you might expect, not terribly deep. It’s not that classic Tetris explores the depths of the human soul, or anything like that, but at its core, Bop It Tetris is just a pattern matching game, and in losing block stacking, some of the build up of tension inherent in the classic game is missing. Instead, you’re thrown into the car crash section of the game, which means it’s best played in short, adrenaline soaked bursts; it’s unlikely to hold the attention of Tetris fans, young or old for longer periods.
Bop It Tetris: Pricing
The RRP of Bop It Tetris is $39.99. That’s about par for an electronic kid’s toy — which is undeniably what this is — but makes it a slightly expensive Tetris.
Bop It Tetris: Alex’s Verdict
I fully expected to loathe Bop It Tetris for the simple sin of not quite being Tetris.
It isn’t… but I find myself curiously liking it despite that fact. I think it’s the nature of the game; it’s decent for me to pick up for very quick bursts of play in-between doing something else. I don’t have to think long and hard about a game, and I can let my mind free-float while I’m chasing gaps quickly, or just trying to ignore that annoying announcer guy.
Without a doubt, if you’re after actual Tetris action, I’d suggest buying actual Tetris rather than this, but if you’ve got kids and want a bit of a brief distraction yourself while they’re at school, there are certainly worse toys. If nothing else, it’ll give them a solid bit of hand-eye co-ordination training when they’re young, and could act as a very cheap sci-fi movie prop in a pinch.