Guest Blog Post by Stingray Games @Stingray_Games
Little did people know that in 1984 a simple game would be released out of Russia that had a monstrous impact on gaming, create its own genre, and end up being the most ported game ever. This game, of course, was Tetris. The aftermath of this game would be a decade (or more) of games trying to capitalize on the Tetris fever that was sweeping the world. While Nintendo did release Tetris for the Nintendo Entertainment System, this review will cover three tetris-like games that added their own spin to the game.
One of these games was Yoshi, or Mario and Yoshi as it is known outside of North America, and was originally released in 1992 for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Yoshi is a fun little tetris-like game in which you control Mario as he swaps stacks to match two familiar Mario enemies (Piranha Plants, Bloopers, Goombas, and Boos) in an effort to keep them from reaching the top of the screen. But unlike Tetris, you can only make vertical matches by stacking two enemies on top of each other. Mario is at the bottom of the screen ready to swap two adjacent stacks at your command.
Besides the enemies, two halves (top and bottom) of a Yoshi egg also drops. The bottom half sits on top of the stack in a similar way to the enemies. If another bottom half is stacked on top, both are removed with no reward. A top half will also disappear if placed on an enemy. Creating a Yoshi egg from these two halves eliminates the egg and all enemies between the two halves. A baby Yoshi hatches out of the completed egg and Yoshi is off to the side, counting each completed egg. There is a single-player mode and competitive two-player modes.
The single-player mode has two types: A & B. Type A is an endless mode in which you play until the blocks reach the top of the screen. Type B is a level mode in which each level is pre-populated with enemies and you beat the level you must clear the play area. In the two-player competitive mode, the screen is split into two boards with each player controlling one board.
Overall this is an enjoyable game that despite myself, I played a lot longer than I thought I would. It is a different take on the standard tetris-like game. Instead of controlling the falling blocks, you control the stacks. I appreciate the out-of-the-box approach this game takes. Most reviews I've seen rate this game poorly. While the music or graphics are nothing spectacular, I find the gameplay to be fun and engaging. It does start out slow on the lower levels, but cranking the speed and level up will create a faster paced game in which you will need fast thinking and reflexes.
Wario's Woods is another Tetris-like game that was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. In 1994, a whole three years after the release of the Super Nintendo, Wario’s Woods became the last officially released game for the NES.
Wario has invaded the area of the Mushroom Kingdom called Peaceful Woods and has cast a spell over the inhabitants, making them his slaves in an attempt to destroy the peace of the forest.
In Wario's Woods you control Toad where you arrange bombs and monsters into a line of three matching colors. The matches can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal and must include at least one bomb.
This game has a few interesting features that set it apart from other tetris-like puzzle games. Instead of controlling the falling blocks, you control Toad as he rearranges the block in order to make the matches. There is a progress bar that indicates the time left for each of the two stages of gameplay: one in which Wario drops monsters and one in which a fairy of the forest drops the needed bombs. In later stages, there are monsters that need a two-stage color match in order to be removed them from the board.
Although Toad is a bit hard to control at times, I found this game to be quite enjoyable. I like the different take on the tetris-like puzzle game that Wario's Woods presents. In addition to dropping monsters, Wario occasionally drops the ceiling of the playing field which increases the tension of the game.
The last game in this review is Dr. Mario which was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North American is 1990. Of the three games, this is the only game that I had growing up and thus has a special place in my fragile gamer psyche.
Mario assumes the role of a doctor who is trying to rid a medicine bottle of viruses as he throws capsules into the bottle. Each half of the capsule can be one of three colors: red, yellow, or blue. The colors match the colors of the viruses and matching four or more colors in a row will remove that colored capsule and any viruses. The capsules can be split in half if one half does not match the color or is not in the vertical or horizontal match.
Two settings can be changed that allow a more challenging game for experienced players. The level, which dictates how many viruses are in the bottle, and the speed at which the viruses fall can be set at the beginning of each game. A music setting is also available which allows the player to choose between three different tunes or no music.
Again, Nintendo shows off what they learned to accomplish over the life span of the NES in this little gem. Screen shots do not really do this game justice. The bad check board background and simple layout may turn some people away. But please give it a chance. So much is happening during the playing that I am often surprised they pulled it off on the NES.
In the playing field, each virus moves. To the left you can see a magnifying glass which shows the three colored viruses. Each one represents their colored viruses in the bottle. They dance around all happy until you take one of the viruses off the board, then they fall down in a playful animation that shows the “strength” of that colored virus has been weakened. When all of the viruses of a specific color are eliminated, that colored virus disappears from the magnifying glass.
All this movement is happening as you drop and control each capsule into the bottle.
Dr. Mario is a great whimsically fun game to play that will consume much more of your time then you’d expect. It is a great take on the tetris-like genre. This game has had many ports, remakes and sequels over the years and with a few minutes gameplay, it is easy to see why.
I have many great memories of Dr. Mario growing up. It being one of the few games my mother would play with my brother and me, I will always cherish those family tournaments that we had. However, I am grateful that the Virtual Console has given me the opportunity to play both Wario’s Woods and Yoshi. All three of these games are great tetris-like games that took a different approach to the beloved genre.
Wario’s Woods and Yoshi can be bought on both the Wii and Wii U for $5. Dr. Mario is only available on the Wii U, but is also only $5. I recommend these games to anyone and you’ll soon see just how hard it is to put down that controller.
Guest Blog Post by Stingray Games @Stingray_Games
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