Wordtris (SNES)

Super Nintendo (1992)

Despite the fact that Tetris may be one of the most perfect videogames of all time, developers have continued to tweak the formula over the years and release different variations of the original. Games such as Tetrisphere, Tetris Worlds and Welltris all built upon the original’s gameplay and took the series in new, fun and interesting directions. One of the most interesting variants to come out was Wordtris, a combination of classic Tetris gameplay and the board game Scrabble.

Replacing colored blocks in Wordtris are Scrabble-like letter tiles that drop from the sky. Instead of geometric shapes, words must be formed in order to advance through the game. Words of three letters or more can be formed both horizontally and vertically, although building words vertically is a dangerous gamble as the playing field is only ten tiles tall. Bonus points are awarded for words four letters in length and up, but once the game begins to speed up this becomes increasingly difficult.

In addition to letters, bonus items including bombs and potions (both of which eliminate existing tiles) drop frequently. Also appearing are tiles labeled with a question mark that turn into a random (and almost never helpful) letter when they land. But the biggest frustration isn’t these bonus tiles; it’s the complete random delivery of tiles. Like the original Tetris in which gamers found themselves begging for a “straight piece”, those playing Wordtris will quickly find themselves pleading at the screen for a vowel. There are only so many words a person can make with the letters FFFFFFFZXXXXV (not including Roman Numerals).

Settings in the menu system include one and two player modes that allow both competitive and cooperative modes. The ability to disallow repeated words exists, and like most versions of Tetris the starting difficulty level can be chosen.

Wordtris uses the Tetris gameplay in an interesting manner, but unfortunately each round’s outcome relies more on tile selection than actual skill. Despite that, the game is quite fun to play, especially to Scrabble fans. And, it’s much harder to toss the board when you’re losing.

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