Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Archive for the ‘Falling Blocks’ Category


Posted by Tracy Poff on March 7, 2009

Bastet, written in 2004 by Federico Poloni, is a Tetris clone with a twist.

It seems like an ordinary game of Tetris at first, allowing you to choose the level you start at to determine the game speed, and with the usual controls–left and right to move the piece, up to rotate it, down to drop it. That “Won’t give you this one!” thing seems a little odd, though…

After a few pieces have dropped, you might begin to suspect that something is wrong, or at least that you’re having a very unlucky game.

As the game progresses, you’ll see that Bastet does live up to its name: “Bastard Tetris”. The AI in Bastet calculates how useful each piece would be to you if it were dropped next, and then refuses to give you the few most useful pieces. In fact, it has a high chance of giving you the piece it computed would be least useful. As a result, getting even a single line can be quite a challenge, and getting more than a few lines is very hard indeed: the author noted on his page when he released it that his friends hadn’t even managed to pass twelve lines.

When the game ends, your score will be saved to the high score list. As you can see above, my first attempt yielded a high score of zero points. Challenging indeed.

Bastet was originally written for Linux, but a Windows port (by Salvatore Meschini) is available, which is essentially the same, though the colors are a little different, which I’d attribute to the change to PDCurses for the Windows port. You can download either or both from the author’s web page.

AI: 9/10
Bastet absolutely lives up to its name. The AI will consistently give you the worst, most annoying pieces, just as it should. If you want to compile it yourself, you can modify the difficulty, too. Minus a point for requiring recompiling to do that.
Gameplay: 8/10
The game behaves as it ought to, though the high difficulty makes it probably a little less fun that it would be if it were somewhat easier. That’s the goal of the game, though, so I can’t penalize it much.
Graphics: 4/5
The game looks nice. I’d prefer it in a graphical game so I could see the edges of the pieces I’ve already placed, but for a text-mode game it looks fine. I’m counting this one half since it is a text-mode game.
Personal Slant: 6/10
I like Tetris, and this is a competent implementation of it, but the difficulty stops me wanting to play it very much. Perhaps some people looking for a real challenge will like a little more.
Total: 7.7/10
Though you probably won’t want to play Bastet for long, owing to its difficulty, it’s worth a download just to see how hard Tetris could be if the game were really intentionally giving you bad pieces.

Posted in 2004, Decent, Falling Blocks, Freeware, Full Review, Linux, Windows | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Tracy Poff on October 28, 2008

Tetris, the classic falling blocks game, was released by Nintendo in November 1989.

Truly, Tetris needs no introduction. There are hundreds of implementations of this simple, yet challenging game. Nintendo’s 1989 offering for the NES is quite well-done.

There are few options. The player can choose between A-type and B-type games, and select which music should be played, if any.

The A-type game is simply pieces falling endlessly, with the goal being to obtain the highest score. The six types of pieces fall starting at the top of the screen, and proceed toward the bottom. While they are in the air, the player can move them left and right, rotate them, or cause them to drop more quickly. Some of the pieces are rarer than others, so it’s necessary to choose where the pieces are placed with care–you can’t count on a line appearing whenever you need it.

For every ten lines you complete, the game’s speed increases one level and the colors of the blocks change. The more lines you eliminate at once, the more points you get, with a Tetris (four lines removed) scoring the most points. You also score more points if you’re at a higher level–each line is worth ten times as much at level nine as it is at level zero, for example.

As the game progresses and the blocks fall faster, the game becomes much more difficult. If the blocks reach too high on the screen, the music will speed up as a warning. If the blocks reach the top of the screen, you lose.

The B-type game is similar to the A-type game, except that rather than playing endlessly, the goal is to remove 25 lines at a particular level, and with a set height of blocks added at the start. Now the lines count down, and the game ends upon removing all 25.

You’re given a score based on the level and height you selected, as well as the points accumulated while removing the lines.

If your score is high enough, you can enter your name on the high score table, and be known far and wide as a Tetris master–at least until you power off the console. I played this game a lot when I was younger, though I suppose I wasn’t that skilled at it–on a good game, I’d get about 110 lines, though I understand that experts can get over 200.

Though this is a fairly old game, it’s quite nice. The graphics are nice, clear, and colorful (though the color schemes for some of the levels are a bit ugly), the music is good, and the gameplay is simply excellent. The B-type game offers a nice, quick challenge if you’re in the mood, and the A-type is nice for slightly longer gaming sessions. Of course, there are many other versions of Tetris, which may be better or worse than this one (I hear that Tengen’s NES version is superior), but Nintendo’s Tetris is definitely worth playing.

Personal Slant

Posted in 1989, Falling Blocks, Full Review, Good, NES | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: Palamedes

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 25, 2006

A rather fun Tetris-like game.


Palamedes isn’t quite the usual falling blocks game. Instead, rows of blocks approach and it is your task to remove them by hitting them with matching block. You select which block to throw at them (from a cycle of six) and try to keep up. It’s something like Bust-a-Move, I suppose.


After a few false starts, I made it to stage six. This one would probably be easier using a gamepad, but mine’s loaned out, so take the apparent difficulty with a grain of salt.

Verdict: It’s a good game. These are few and far between, so I’d check this one out if you’re a fan of falling blocks games.

Posted in 1990, Falling Blocks, First Impressions, Good, NES | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: 3D Block

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 25, 2006

A falling blocks game, which appears from the title screen to be an adult game. Is it? See inside:


I’ll answer now, to spare you any anxiety: if it’s an adult game, no one will ever know, because it’s impossible to get anything done.


It’s not too hard to rotate the shape when it’s at the top, but once it gets further down it’s nigh impossible to tell how it’s oriented. Furthermore, it’s very hard to tell at a glance what the levels below the top are like.


And what is that box on the lower right? Is it supposed to help me guide my blocks? It shows four blocks per level. There are sixteen blocks per level in truth. I don’t know how this is meant to help, but it’s about as useful as dictionary with every other letter missing–you know there’s more to it, but it doesn’t do you any good.

With all these faults, the only thing that let me complete the first level was the the blocks fall slowly–painfully slowly. You can press start to drop the block all the way, but there’s no way to move it down just a bit. When the second level comes, though, this isn’t a problem. Where the first level was far too slow, the second level is impossibly fast. The blocks fall completely in about a second, which is nowhere near enough time to orient them, much less position them accurately. So, we get this:


And the game is thankfully over.

Verdict: This game shows why 3D should not be done on an NES. The 2D Tetris games are pretty good on the NES, so if you want falling blocks, play those instead.

Posted in Bad, Falling Blocks, First Impressions, NES | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »