Tetrisphere – Definitive 50 N64 Game #35

The list so far: The Definitive 50 N64 Games

Developer H2O Entertainment was readying the title Phear for the Atari Jaguar in 1995 when Nintendo picked up the game’s publishing rights. The companies worked together to move the game to the N64, where it was eventually released as Tetrisphere in 1997.

Polygon powered graphics led to some interesting innovation in unexpected genres. Even Tetris was re-imagined to take advantage of the new technology. Tetrisphere is unlike any other Tetris game you’ve played.

Blocks are wrapped around a globe, and the general idea is to clear them away to reach the core. It’s incredibly addictive once you get the hang of it, but the rules aren’t exactly intuitive for beginners.

Blocks are cleared by getting at least two of the same shape in contact with one another, and then dropping a third on or beside them. You can slide blocks around to position them together, but nothing will happen until you perform a drop.

What it really means to have two pieces in contact also varies by the type of piece. The square “O” shaped pieces, for example, must be aligned with one another, while T blocks only need to be in contact at a single point.

You can only drop blocks in spots that will cause pieces to clear. As you move your current piece around Tetrisphere’s, umm, spheres, the blocks below will become illuminated if you can perform a drop. Attempting to drop a piece in a place where you can’t initiate any piece clearing will cause you to lose a life. The game’s camera also slowly moves towards the sphere you’re working on when you’re not clearing pieces. Get too close, and you’ll also lose a life. Once you lose your third life, the game is over.

Even all of that is just the basics – there are also Power Pieces to consider, and combos that lead into explosive Magic Power-ups.

Tetrisphere is made up of several clever modes based around these mechanics. In Rescue, you work to save robots trapped in spheres by clearing enough blocks for them to escape over the course of many increasingly difficult missions. Hide + Seek has you trying to do the same, but introduces special objectives to mix up your block clearing strategies. Levels might require you to clear blocks around or even under certain objects, for example.

There’s also a puzzle mode which strictly limits the number of slides and pieces you get, and demands you figure out how to clear all present pieces within these restrictions. A Basic vs. mode for competing against human or CPU players is also available.

Tetrisphere’s spaced out techno soundtrack, satisfying sound effects, smooth framerate, and silly robot characters complete what is a well made and highly addictive puzzle game, even if it is nothing like Tetris.

I’m beginning to notice an unfortunate pattern with N64 developers, especially the ones Nintendo worked with directly. H2O Entertainment later made The New Tetris, also for N64, but the developer didn’t last much longer than that.

Let me know what you think of Tetrisphere and the Definitive 50 in the comments section below. Don’t forget to rate and subscribe.

Check back next week for entry #34 on the Definitive 50 N64 games.

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