There is a lot of universal languages, and almost none of them are real languages. Movies often bear the nickname, as does football. Video games are another type of universal language, although games often have their own regional biases and goals. A player who grew up with Indiana Jones movies might have a different understanding of Nathan Drake, for example, than one that didn’t. But the distance is shrinking day by day, with games like Fortnite focus less on cultural details and more on shared experience.
You could say it started with Tetrisa game that even predates Super Mario Bros. The game was born under unlikely circumstances. Tetris was created by Alexey Pajitnov, a researcher at the Soviet Academy of Sciences in what was then called Leningrad and is now known as St. Petersburg, in his spare time, on a computer without a GUI, without any understanding of the great video game industry.
It was a long and complex road from the Soviet Union to world domination, interrupted in large part by prejudice against any kind of content emanating from the USSR. But once the game debuted in America, proudly brandishing its Soviet heritage, it stuck. Countless iterations of its core gameplay, fitting plummeting four-block tetrominos, emerged.
Tetris 99, which released in 2019 and is currently free for Nintendo Online subscribers, is a particularly clever iteration. This takes up the universal language of the battle royale which Fortnite popularized and brings it to another universal language, Tetris.
Tetris 99 has two levels of gameplay: the first is the classic construction and the elimination of Tetrisand then there is business for everyone. Tetris 99 makes the concept of “waste” lines crucial to gameplay. Waste lines are the ones that the game artificially adds below your screen, helping to solve the puzzles of Tetris Smaller and smaller.
Waste lines are the weapons of choice in Tetris 99. Frustratingly, the game offers no tutorials or explanations of how it works, which is why a guide (like Kotaku‘s) is very useful. Clearing a line does nothing, but clearing two sends a waste line, clearing three sends two, and getting a tetris of four clears sends four. You can choose from four targets, including whoever targets you, one of ninety-eight other players who approach the end of the line (known as a knockout), anyone who has earned what are called badges or a random selection.
Players have a chance to fend off a trash attack by obliterating their own lines, and are incentivized to go for the knockout on others not only through competitive driving, but also by earning a chance to earn the aforementioned badges. Each knockout is a “piece” of badge, and they are becoming exponentially harder to earn.
Badges can make you a target: they multiply the number of queues you send. According Kotakuthis gives twenty-five percent more for the first badge, fifty percent more for the second, seventy-five percent more for the third, and 100 percent more for the fourth.
This all happens very quickly amidst flashing lights and upbeat techno music that resembles the game’s original sounds. It might take a few turns to figure out the game mechanics, but the learning curve is short if you have, say, twenty minutes to spare. Games move quickly, even if you’ve passed the initial stages, where the game speeds up.
Tetris is a universal language, a game that does not need words to be understood. Tetris 99 complicates things a bit. This may not be the best and most complete version of the game available – that would be Tetris effect—but it does exactly what it wants to do. If you are looking for a game that emphasizes competition Tetristhis one is a blast.