Approximate Release Month: November 1992
Developer: Bullet Proof Software
Publisher: Spectrum HoloByte
Wordtris throws away the simplicity that made Tetris so great.
One of the many reasons Tetris is such an addictive game is because it relies heavily on reflexes. Sure, you can plan ahead and have a strategy to chain tetrises as much as possible. Everyone starts off a game of Tetris like that. But that plan will always fall apart. At some point, you won’t get that long piece. Random chance means you’re going to lose. As inevitability marches closer and closer, your brain will kick into survival mode. Pieces will magically fall into place as you improvise and it will take only split-seconds to know where you want the next piece to go because the rules are simple: clear lines.
Wordtris never has that moment because it’s way too complicated. Letters fall from the top of the screen and you have to make words with them to clear space on the board for new letters. That’s where the first major problem of Wordtris becomes clear: There are 26 letters and only five-sometimes-six vowels. Every game I’ve played has been annoyingly vowel-starved.
Let’s bring it back to Tetris for a moment. Would Tetris have been successful if there were 26 different pieces? What if some pieces could only clear if they were linked to certain other pieces? It would be a disaster, and that’s what Wordtris is. It’s too complicated.
And too difficult. Wordtris doesn’t build up the speed gradually, so by level 4 I’m just slamming pieces down into the tiny playfield and just hoping words happen to match. There’s no skill or strategy here, just luck. I don’t feel like I have much control over what happens. It’s impossible to juggle everything you need to juggle to be successful. There’s a “children’s” mode that makes the pieces fall slower, but it’s still dependent on vowels to drop to make progress.
But the biggest sin Wordtris commits is having a limited library of accepted words. The game’s 1992 press release states it has a 50,000-word dictionary built-in. That might be true, but I had some trouble with simple words not being recognized. “Bot” and “pee” are words, and I don’t care what this game says! So given that the Game Boy version of Wordtris only has 300 words, I don’t know if we can trust that press release.
And what’s up with the weird circus theme?
I can’t think of many games that fail so totally in the basic concept as Wordtris. It’s a bad idea done in a poor way. Tetris will always reign.
Tomorrow: X-Zone is the second retail game released for the Super Scope. I feel bad for kids like me who had one!