Reason Goggle Bob Feels Ashamed #4,631 (not high school-related count): I like Tetris Blast more than Tetris.
It is literally impossible to measure the cultural impact of Tetris. While it’s entirely possible that Bill Clinton never played Super Mario Bros. or George Bush never touched a Final Fantasy in his life, I completely believe that every sitting president since the invention of the Gameboy has played Tetris in one form or another. It was a national phenomenon for what seemed like a decade, established and solidified Nintendo’s grip on the handheld market, and I’m pretty sure it single-handedly extended the USSR’s existence for a solid year or two. The dates match up, people!
On a personal level, Tetris was always the game that established that I might not be a complete weirdo. It was the adults of my extended family that first caught the Tetris bug, and, like settlers infecting indigenous peoples with well-meaning/diseased blankets, my mother and grandfather shortly thereafter succumbed to Tetris-mania. My father and grandmothers seemed oddly resistant to the strain, but, in no time at all, my grandfather had received a Gameboy as a Christmas gift, and my mother, shining bastion of restraint that she forever will be, would often sneak the device back home, only to be returned when the batteries ran dry. I wasn’t allowed to have a Gameboy of my own (as I’ve mentioned before, it was assumed that allowing me to have an “always available” system would lead to becoming some filthy videogame blogger or something), but the mere fact that the maternal side of my family was so dedicated to playing one single game seemed… empowering? I wasn’t alone in my “childish” hobby. Here are a World War II vet and a historian both playing with the same d-pad as yours truly. Sure, they still didn’t know the secret hiding place of Dungeon 7, but it’s enough that they now understand why I get upset every time I’m asked to give up on a high score for dinnertime. I just got a long piece, I can’t quit now!
Of course, other than that, I didn’t really like Tetris.
To be clear, this is another case where I “like” Tetris, but I’d rather be playing Mega Man. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t play videogames (this is a lie, I remember the first time I saw Super Mario Bros like most people remember the first time they saw their spouse… er… hmm….), which means that, whether it was because of Nintendo Power ads that convinced me I “need” the latest game, or because I never beat Friday the 13th, I have pretty much always had a backlog. “Would I play again” has always been an important question in my mind, because there’s more out there in the wide world of gaming, and I’m never going to save all those princesses if I spend all day stacking blocks. Tetris is, at its core, a score-based game, and, like its cousins in the sportsball arena, I’d rather be playing something with a clear goal or “plot”. The plot might be completely bonkers, but I get so much more joy out of overanalyzing a vaguely religious space opera than praying for one less square block to fall. Everybody knows that everything about Tetris is random, right? It’s just a waste of time and effort! Soylent Green is made from tetrominoes!
And I say this all as someone who has somehow purchased a copy of Tetris for every system he’s ever owned. Hey, it holds my attention for ten minutes or so.
But Tetris Blast? Tetris Blast was somehow made for my unique psychological issues.
Tetris Blast came stateside as a (Super) Gameboy game, but it saw more systems and wider release in Japan as Bombliss. You will note that “Bombliss” does not include the title “Tetris”, but, hey, if you’ve got the license to use the name of one of the most well-known videogames in history, may as well slap that thing on everything from explosion simulators to Yoshi block puzzles. Tetris Blast is pretty damn Tetris, though. Your goal is to line up blocks, but, unlike in OG Tetris, lines do not naturally disappear when properly assembled. You must also include at least one “bomb block”, and, if that bomb is in a complete line, then it will explode the nearby blocks. A single line causes an explosion that is a single line’s height (though not necessarily width, so a bomb at the far edge might not eliminate an entire line), but if more than one line is amassed simultaneously, the blast will be larger. Line up four rows and then that single bomb block that would be piddling on a single line completion becomes celebratory fireworks. Couple this with the ability to combine four little bomb blocks into one giant bomb block, and you’ve suddenly gained the ability to blast the entire screen with one well-placed block. Granted, that takes a lot of planning (or luck), but it’s phenomenally satisfying when you pull it off.
Tetris Blast shines brightest with its “modes”. There’s two player head-to-head, so, right off the bat, it has a leg up over NES Tetris. Then we have Training, your Mode A, and Contest, Mode B. Contest deserves some major kudos for designing a series of interesting, escalating “puzzles” that teach the basics on early levels (big bomb = good), and slowly ramps up to “this is a weird collection of blocks, but I think you can figure it out”. It’s also features breakdancing Pac-Man rejects every five stages, and I can’t say that’s a bad thing.
But what always seems to hold my attention is Fight. Fight is Tetris Blast, but a small “monster” is skulking around the stage. There are eight different creatures, and each has a different ability, like making your pieces fall faster, or eating your meticulously placed bombs. Your goal is to blast these critters with your bombs until their hit points are exhausted, or you clear the stage of every last block, which I suppose causes the monsters to commit seppuku in failure. These beings are completely “there”, too, which means you can squish them with properly placed blocks, or attempt to “box ‘em in” to curtail their dangerous habits. It’s not unlike playing Tetris, but having a lil’ Mario or koopa troopa scampering around on your growing tower. It’s simultaneously dumb and surprisingly endearing.
And I love it.
It appears the secret to holding my attention is slapping a pair of googly eyes on a random shape and calling it my enemy. Squidly, Dug Grub, and Creepa are all rivals to my Tetris Blast happiness, and they must be stopped. I must defeat this charmingly named menace by any means necessary, else the previously blissful land of Bombliss will forever fester beneath the rule of B. Boy. God help me, the minute the Tetris world gained a rival faction, I was interested again, and wound up playing this nonsense for hours on end.
Hi, my name is Goggle Bob, and I prefer a cheap knock-off to a timeless classic because it features a monster named Gloop. Thanks for reading my blog.
FGC #199 Tetris Blast
- System: Gameboy and Super Gameboy. The Super Gameboy factor is the only reason I owned this game when it was current.
- Number of players: Usually one, but with that link cable? Oh boy, good times ahead!
- Favorite Monster: Dug Grub seems to inspire the most strategy. He will eat our precious giant bombs, but he only does so from the top, and not that quickly, either. This means you often have the opportunity to squish him before he gobbles up your hard work… but then there will be an errant block on top of your giant bomb, possibly causing more issues down the line. In closing, Tetris Blast is a land of contrasts.
- New Game Plus: There is a “second round” of even harder monsters after the first group. They can be unlocked by completing the game once, or entering a secret code you found in Nintendo Power. The most significant change for this challenge mode is that clearing all the blocks will not end the level, meaning some jerks, like Squidly, the beast that just chills and refills his own health, will take forever.
- Number of times I resisted making an “explosive” pun during this article: 1,205.
- Did you know? Tetris Blast seems to have inspired Super Puzzle Fighter and Lumines in various design decisions. It’s not like Tetris Blast invented the “puzzle game where things explode” genre, but there is certainly some shared DNA there.
- Would I play again: Probably not, as the Gameboy and its library rarely sees replay in my home outside of an elf’s adventure to wake a fish. That said, if this thing gets a rerelease or redux, I am totally there.
What’s next? Random ROB… Listen to me, robot. This is entry #200 coming up, and I don’t want you to blow it like last time. So pick something good, ROB.
And the winner is… Wayne’s World for Super Nintendo!
How am I going to get something memorable out of that? Bah, I’m sure I’ll think of something. Please look forward to it!