The Brilliance of Tetris 99

With the astronomical popularity of battle royale games, it was only a manner of time before all of the big publishers threw in their variant to stake their claim.

So far, BR can be found on every major gaming platform – but there was always one publisher that was missing: Nintendo. And now, they’ve shown up with their very own BR variant of… Tetris?

Announced as a free-to-play title offered to Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, Tetris 99 is perhaps one of the most refreshing, challenging, and downright insane versions of Tetris ever offered to the public. The premise is simple, just like any other battle royal: enter the match with 98 other players and emerge as the last one standing. It’s a lot easier said than done.

The first time you’re dropped into a match, you’ll see something that’s never really been done before in a Tetris game: 98 other games being played simultaneously alongside you. It can lead to quite a bit of sensory overload at first glance, but after a little time spent with it, the method to the madness begins to appear.

You see, despite being a Tetris game, Tetris 99 wholly embraces the staples of the battle royale genre. Victory will only be achieved through a combination of skill, persistence, strategy, and luck. While the game affords you the option to target any one of the other 98 players manually, its far preferable to utilize the quick-select system at the top of the screen.

Here, there are four options: “Random”, “Attackers”, “K.O.”, and “Badges”. The “Random” button does precisely what it sounds like: it merely targets a random player in the match, sending any lines that you clear to them as junk lines that will fill up their grid.

The other three options are where it gets interesting: “Attackers” lets you target all the other players that are targeting you. A good default option, it can pay dividends if you can clear lines faster than those hounding you, as you generate bonus lines depending on how stacked the odds are against you.

“K.O.” targets players who’ve seen their grid rise far too high and are at risk of being knocked out of the game. As only one player can claim a K.O. on another, targeting near-death players when you’re about to clear more than two lines is a very efficient method to clearing out opponents and attaining the most valuable thing you can in the game: badges.

Badges – the obvious focus of the “Badges” button – is what players receive for knocking out others. A player can only have a maximum of four badges, and it takes successive amounts of knockouts to attain badges after the first one.

The badges do far more than just look sexy on your screen. For each badge that you possess, you get a permanent 25% bonus to the lines that you send to other players. That means that if you had four badges, the resulting 100% bonus would send over eight junk lines to your target every time you cleared four lines for at Tetris.

Oh, and did we mention that players earn your badges for knocking you out? It’s beautifully sadistic.

What’s perhaps so enthralling about Tetris 99 is the metagame that establishes over the course of the game. Play too aggressive and attain too many badges in the early game will only result in you painting a massive target on your back for others to hunt you down. A fine combination of skill, patience, and strategic elimination is the best recipe for success.

We never though we’d pen words such as these in regard to a Tetris game, but we couldn’t be more happy that we have.

If you’ve yet to give Tetris 99 a whirl, pick up your Switch immediately and get to it.

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