Just about everyone in the world must have heard of Tetris by now. The block-stacking video game took the world by storm and sold hundreds of thousands of copies and a good many Nintendo Game Boy handheld consoles in the 80s. Considered by many in our offices to be one of the founders of pocket gaming, its simple graphics and addictive gameplay ensured it appeared on just about every format and in many variations, most of them copyright-infringing. Indeed, its success was matched only by the subsequent battles over who actually created it (Alexei Pajitnov if you're interested) and more importantly who owned the rights.
No such doubts remain here, however, as this is the officially licensed version from Jamdat, which means we're back to the original selection of 7 coloured shapes - known as Tetrominoes or tetrads - that fall from the sky and into the play area at a steadily increasing velocity. En route they can be moved and rotated via the joypad so that upon landing they link with others to form a solid wall. Manage to form one or more lines in this way and they'll disappear, allowing the blocks above to move down the screen. Leave gaps and the Tetrominoes keep building upwards until you touch the top of the screen and its game over!
So far, so familiar then, but as the suffix would suggest, Tetris Ultra teaches this faithful old dog a few new tricks. In addition to playing for as long as you can before the screen fills up, your head hurts or, more likely, your phone's battery runs out, there are also two snappier new pocket-gaming friendly modes, 'Ultra' and '40 lines'. In the former you have 3 minutes to accrue the highest score you can and the latter charges you with getting rid of 40 lines in the fastest time possible. As special multiplier bonuses are awarded for taking out 2-4 lines at once, in practice this means trying to assemble 3 or 4 line structures as you await that long, thin piece to complete your plans.
And you might not have to wait too long either, as another gameplay tweak allows you to hold a piece in reserve by pressing the '0' button, which you can then re-introduce into the action. Although far from revolutionary, the addition of this feature and the listing of the next 5 pieces to fall undoubtedly provides for a little more forward planning and strategy than in the original game.
When all the blocks have fallen and the dust settles though, it's still ultimately Tetris, even though it does have a few new bells and whistles and, if you feel you've already invested enough of your life organising those coloured blocks, you might want to give this a miss. For the rest of us puzzle-lovers though, despite the myriad options out there (some of which offer a fresher and more varied challenge) Tetris Ultra is still an essential purchase. The years have been kind to the classic formula ensuring that the block stacking challenge is every bit as addictive today as when it first arrived.