How do you improve upon the perfection that is Tetris? Bannerman Games tries to give these time-tested tetrominoes an upgrade in their new block-busting title Whirlygig, but the end result is an adulterated mess that takes too many liberties with its source material.
The basic premise of Whirlygig is the same as Tetris – there are falling blocks, and it is up to players to make lines to have them disappear. The standard shapes have been included, but there are some new ones thrown into the mix. There is a reason Alexey Pajitnov never put these in the original version though – they simply do not work. Giant L blocks, lines three blocks deep, and other anomalies make control that much more difficult, and prove to be fairly annoying. Trying to make even the most basic setups is fairly difficult, because these shapes do not fit anywhere. It is poorly designed, and a game breaker.
Things get far worse with its gimmick. In Whirlygig, players aren’t playing one game – they’re playing four. Divided between spring, summer, fall, and winter, the way blocks fall is changed by the season. Spring has your typical setup, with blocks falling from the top, but the playfield is reversed in the fall, with blocks falling from the bottom of the screen to the top. It’s a novelty, but it is disorienting.
This is made that much worse with the RNG in play. Every five blocks, the playfield changes to a different one at random. It’s hard to get invested when the screen goes dark for a second and the playfield changes to something completely new. Some playfields might be done multiple times in a row, but each round is jarring and borderline unplayable. Put simply, it is infuriating, rather than fun.
That’s not enough though – Whirlygig also introduces a concept of “good blocks” and “bad blocks” as an incentive. After clearing four lines, players are given five turns to clear a special block. Successfully clear this block, and players can net themselves a good block. Fail to do so however, and they’ll have to deal with a bad block immediately.
While not a terrible concept in and of itself, the awkward nature of this game makes it an exercise in tedium. The odd shapes and shifting play field makes what would normally be a straightforward task into a grueling effort. Because of this, expect to see your fair share of bad, poorly shaped blocks.
Rounding things out is a poor presentation, one made of clip art, Microsoft Paint doodles, and stock sound effects from the Pro Sound Collection. A Tetris-inspired game does not need state-of-the-art graphics, but crinkling paper to make it sound like a blizzard or creating a bunny with the circle and fill tool is an insult.
Whirlygig does absolutely nothing to improve the time-tested Tetris formula. Everything that makes this title unique ultimately takes away from the game, rendering it borderline unplayable.
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