Tetris 99 (Switch eShop) Review

In a surprise announcement from this week’s Nintendo Direct, much like combatants sky-diving into a warzone, Tetris 99 came out of nowhere. And if you’re unsure what separates this from the gazillion other Tetris games on every platform, here are two main points: 1) it’s freely available only for Nintendo Online subscribers; and 2) it’s you against literally 98 other people.

The battle royale genre exploded a couple of years ago, and was synonymous with large-scale, online shooters. But Tetris 99 flips that rule on its head.

As far as paid-for Tetris games go, Tetris 99 isn’t particularly deep or feature-filled. It has one online-only game mode, but that’s all it really needs for a free, surprise game. Matches are quick to start, and when you’ve stacked out you can instantly jump back in the queue and be in another game within seconds.

Tetris 99 works like most other competitive Tetris games: clear two or more lines at a time to send garbage lines to another player and vice-versa. You can prioritise who gets attacked by your garbage by making one of four choices from the top of screen with the left stick. You can focus on those who are attacking you, those who are losing, those with badges (more on that later), or have the game randomly select for you. Often I’ll start a match by changing between these options, but when the game ramps its difficulty after 50% of the players have dropped out, I only focused on not getting my own ass kicked rather than who’s getting my garbage. It depends on how quick your brain can work.

The downside to this system is the game doesn’t communicate how it works, or who gets badges. Badges are more important in the endgame, as the higher badge number you have relates to how many extra lines you can attack others with: badge 1 increases by a quarter, badge 2 increases by half, badge 3 by three quarters and badge 4 doubles. Gaining badges is reliant on KO-ing another player, and each KO earns you a badge bit. Two bits equal one badge, and then doubles up at each badge tier to 4 (the highest).

In addition to this, you can also combo lines – provided you’re organised. Apart from that, there’s not much else adding any real depth to Tetris 99. There’s a level-up system which deals out XP based on how well you performed, but from what I can tell your level is pretty much cosmetic. There are some theories saying the higher your level, the more of a target you become for other players who’ve set their targets to “random”.

Tetris 99 is pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get, and I think that’s what makes it work so well. There’s no need for complex battle systems or extra modes; no one asked for this game, but here it is at no extra cost, so it manages expectations well by giving just one, solid game mode.

You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting into Tetris 99. And if you’re subscribed to Nintendo Online, why wouldn’t you?

Rating: 4/5

Tetris 99 is only available to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers currently.

The Good

- Quick and easy to jump into
- It’s an absolute blast and gets the adrenaline pumping
- Free Tetris

The Bad

- The strategic systems aren’t clear
- Not much depth to the overall experience

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Final Thoughts

It’s Tetris, times by 99. It’s also free if you're a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber, so go get it!

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About The Author
Angelo Valdivia
  • Oliver Phommavanh
    February 18, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    Perfect game to dip in and out of, in between other games and pockets of time. Hope they continue to build on this.

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