Ah, the Game Boy. Hot off the success of the NES, Nintendo released this little guy in 1989. Though technically inferior to other handhelds, like the Game Gear and Atari Lynx, this black-and-white, hard-to-see little fellow took the world by storm and showed that better graphics do not equal success. With a lower price, longer battery life, and great selection of games, it seemed like every kid had a Game Boy.
Of course, a console is nothing without games. And the Game Boy didn’t slouch in that department! Games like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Kirby’s Adventure, Super Mario Land 2, and Pokemon Red & Blue are fondly remembered by those who grew up with them. But those came later, and today I’m talking about the early days of the Game Boy.
Five games were available alongside the console, one of which was included with it: Tetris. Yes, Tetris, that little puzzle game that everyone over 30 now has on their smartphone. It may not seem like a big deal now, but at the time, Tetris was the shit! This simple game of falling blocks was a huge on computers and in arcades, so naturally it was ported over to pretty much every game console out there. So naturally, the Game Boy got it too… as a pack-in title, no less.
Its inclusion was actually a pretty big selling point at the time. Back then, it wasn’t uncommon for a console to come with a game… whereas these days, you’re lucky if you even get HD cables with your console. And, as I’ve mentioned before, Tetris was immensely popular at the time. This was pretty much the only way you could play it on the go, and if you had a link cable, you could even play against a friend!
Come on, just look how fucking rad that commercial is. No kid could have resisted that. And with such an affordable price, most parents were on board too. And so the Game Boy prospered.
But was it really such a big deal? You bet your ass it was. Tetris on the Game Boy had all the charm of its older brothers, and is just as much fun today as it was in 1989. Though lacking the bright colors of its counterparts, the gameplay and catchy music was all intact. I had only intended to play for a little bit, but got hooked and played for about an hour.
Man, that title screen really takes me back. You’re given a choice between 1 and 2 player mode. As stated before, you needed a friend with the same game, plus a link cable to play multiplayer. I had few friends as a kid, so I mostly stuck with 1 player.
You’ve probably all played Tetris at some point or another, but here’s the gist of it: you arrange falling blocks to make horizontal lines across the play area. You need to keep clearing lines, or else the blocks will stack up and reach the top of the screen. When that happens, you lose. You gain a level for every 10 lines cleared, and with each level the blocks get faster, making it harder. Simple, right? But for all its simplicity, this game is addictive as hell.
And don’t think you can pause to strategize, either. Pressing start hides the playing field, so you’ve got stay on your toes. Tetris is the type of game that’s easy to learn, but difficult to master. If you keep playing, eventually you’ll get a feel for it. Of course, you’re probably going to keep playing regardless.
You can choose which level you start at. It starts at 0 and goes up to 9, and as far as I can tell, 9 lasts until you lose. The main goal of the game is to last as long as possible, and get as high of a score as you can. It’s easy to get really into it.
And even if you lose, it’s hard to stay mad when that cute little heart is asking you to try again.
So that’s Tetris on the Game Boy. It may seem primitive compared to the versions available today, but it’s still got a charm about it that can’t be matched. I’d even go so far as to call it a sophisticated little game. One that should be enjoyed like a good book, sitting in an armchair and sipping on some tea.