Name: Tetanus on Drugs
Format: PC, Gameboy Advance
Developer: Damian Yerrick (yerricde to you and me)
Publisher: None (released as a Public Domain game over the Internet from www.pineight.com)
Tetris falling block puzzle games are probably the simplest, most hypnotic forms of video games ever made. There is no plot, little need for graphics, only the gameplay matters.
yerricde is a bit of a code wizard. And amongst his other projects that you can find at www.pineight.com (such as a console game Tile Editor, some tech demos for the Gameboy Advance, a NES Bingo game (Gnome vs. KDE)) you will find this beauty.
In a mix between a tech demo and a game (kind of like Rockfall) yerricde has created probably the strangest game of Tetris you will ever play. Of course, it's not a game of Tetris®. Oh no. But as yerricde notes at The Tetris Company, as long as a game is not called Tetris and does not use graphics or music ripped directly from Tetris, then it's perfectly legal.
I was playing Street Fighter Alpha 2 the other day on MAME and I saw that the start up screen tells me that "Winners don't use Drugs". Whether this is true or not, video games have nearly always discouraged use of drugs, or avoided the topic completely. What could have been the video game of the 90s, Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll ended up being canned because of drug references. Publishers were just too nervous. But publishing a game on the Internet means you can refer to whatever illegality you like. And this game does that in style.
Tetanus on Drugs is basically what playing normal Tetris would look like if you had taken an extraordinary amount of mind altering narcotics, and then put on some banging tunes while you played it. Surreal this most definitely is. Tripping music plays away in the background, and the playing field with all the blocks in distorts in time to the beat. The music is very dynamic - it's sometimes fast and loud, and sometimes nice and mellow. The really cool thing is, the distortion of the playing area depends on the music - if it's a fast piece of music, the play area will go wild, spinning upside down, zooming in and out, and generally confusing the heck out of you. This simply builds on Tetris' big challenge - to keep your head when pieces start falling really fast. Now you have to keep your head while they're falling really fast, spinning around, and zooming in and out.
The playing field distortion engine is very similar to the SNES's Mode 7 effect of scaling, but it is multi platform. The first version of ToD, on the PC, used this engine very well, with just the basic game of Tetris. Pieces fall, make lines, get points. The music was a very snazzy remix of the original Game Boy Tetris music, and the playfield distorted in a suitably crazy way. Elements of The New Tetris were included (like gold blocks: see below).
ToD for the Gameboy Advance, however, takes everything to a new level. The music is no longer a remix of GB Tetris' music - instead, an interesting extra piece of music (see below for details). The track repeats endlessly, but has fast and slow sections to allow for decent chunks of frantic block dropping, intermingled with some more leisurely play - in this case, leisurely means when the play field isn't doing back flips and going blurry to the time of the beat.
The "new" music for ToD GBA version is actually a parody of the way that Manson copied Puff Daddy's song It's all about the Benjamins with his song I don't like the Drugs. yerricde wrote the background music and then decided to make a game based arouned it.
Both versions also incorporate features which only newer commercial versions of Tetris have - such as the ability to put four unbroken pieces of the same type together in a 4*4 square to form a super gold block. Clear one of these gold blocks all in one (with that godlike piece, the long straight one) and you get something like 4500 points. Not bad for five minutes work. Hypothetically you could clear two of these big gold blocks in one move, but that would take the most incredibly good luck to only have 3 kinds of pieces falling down.
Ok, so it wouldn't really be that hard. yerricde says he can get 6500 point tetrises routinely with one gold block and one silver block (a silver block is created when four pieces that aren't all the same are put together in a 4*4 sqaure). A website he directed me to has evidence of quite shockingly good tetris playing - a screen which contains 6 silver blocks, 4 gold blocks, and nothing else!
If you fancy checking out this website yourself, go to http://gilly.homeip.net/tetris
Another cool new feature for the GBA version is a "reserve" box, which lets you press a button to switch whatever you have in the reserve box with the currently active piece. This means if you are building up a meaty combo and you are about to need a big long piece, if one comes along too early you can store it in your reserve box until the time is perfect. This is a great feature which allows some nifty tactics.
The GBA build also includes some nicely tidied up presentation (a cool Pin Eight logo, a nice title screen featuring magic mushrooms, a slick game mode selector) and changeable backgrounds to the game. Most feature or refer to drugs, and special mention goes to the background which features some corporate big guy (Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York) saying "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it." above the words "It's NORML to smoke pot". See the node on NORML for more details, but associating big capitalist bastards to drugs through video games gets three thumbs up from me*. And there's a cool reworking of the Coca Cola logo so that it says Cocaine - nice.
Admittently this isn't the first Tetris style game in the world. However, think about this. My way of deciding whether a game is good or not is seeing whether I can concentrate on doing a writeup on it, or if I am tempted to play it some more. Now if you want to know how much time I've spent playing the game when I should have been doing this, bear in mind that yerricde /msged me after a few previous PD game writeups and asked if I would do a review of this game. That was then. And I'm finishing the writeup now. You do the math.
OK, we've established that it's good. It's also freely available to download and distribute at www.pineight.com. It's also playable on both a real GBA with a Flash backup unit, or a emulator such as VisualBoy Advance, and both ways it works very nicely. It's fun, free, easy to find, easy to play, and, best of all, it's initials spell the German word for Death. It doesn't get any better than that.
If you like this game, and I'm sure you will, then check out some more of yerricde's amateur programming with GNOME vs. KDE for the NES or freepuzzlearena on the PC.
If you fancy some more Tetris action, try Tetripz from Mute Fantasies.
Playing the game downloaded from www.pineight.com
Thanks to yerricde for programming this beasty game, asking me to do a writeup on it, and giving me suggestions and additions before I posted it, and corrections afterward.
* - I borrowed one.