A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tetris 99 is a downloadable online game for the Nintendo Switch in which 99 randomly matched players compete to be the last player standing. Players attempt to fit falling blocks into partially completed lines at the bottom of the screen as fast as they can in order to clear lines from the board. Play fosters a spirit of friendly competition among opponents while satisfying the natural human urge to make order out of disorder. There's no violence, sexuality, or strong language, and players can't interact with one another. While this game is free for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, it could further encourage non-subscribers to pay for Nintendo's online service in order to gain access.
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What's it about?
TETRIS 99 is essentially the same puzzle game that's been around for decades with a simple modern twist: online play against nearly 100 randomly selected opponents. The primary objective is to maneuver falling blocks called tetrominoes into position so that when they land, they interlock with existing pieces to form between one and four lines at a time, which are then cleared from the board. Other players are doing the same thing, and you can actually see tiny images of their screens arranged in a grid around yours. You'll frequently be targeted by these other players, meaning that if another player clears two, three, or four lines at a time, then "garbage" lines will appear at the bottom of your screen, pushing existing lines higher. You can't choose specific targets, but you can choose a type of target by using the right stick to select either random players, players who are targeting you, those close to defeat, and those who possess badges, which are earned if you happen to knock another player out by sending them more garbage than they can handle. Once the lines in your grid reach the top of the screen, it's game over. At the end of the game players are ranked based on their performance, and experience points are earned that allow players to level up. Note that this game is free, but only available to people who subscribe to the paid Nintendo Switch Online service.
Is it any good?
Think of this game as battle royale for puzzle lovers. Tetris 99 builds off the currently in-vogue concept of having 100 players battle against each other until just one is left standing, except that instead of using guns and grenades, they're putting their ability to quickly and efficiently stack blocks to the test. Veteran Tetris players will find the action very familiar. The strategy hasn't changed at all: you can still plan ahead by viewing upcoming tetrominoes and parking those that could come in handy later off to the side to be called on when needed. It's still in your best interest to risk a rising grid in order to potentially clear a four-line "Tetris," since doing so causes grief for one of your opponents. Plus, as the game progresses, it slowly begins to speed up, putting more pressure on players to be quick and precise with their movements. It's a bit stressful, but -- as has always been the case with Tetris -- also deeply satisfying.
Competing against 98 other players is really just a way of taking pride in your existing or evolving skill. Rookies may be among the initial players knocked out during their first few games, but it won't take them long to begin climbing the ladder and leveling up. Veteran players are bound to feel a burning drive to prove that their years spent stacking blocks on systems ranging from Game Boy to PlayStation 4 weren't for naught, and that they're among the most elite players in the world. That matches are typically over in just a handful of minutes just makes the experience all that much more habit forming, as it urges us to jump back in and see if we can do better next time. Tetris 99 proves that just a little variation on a proven recipe can breathe fresh life into a beloved classic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Tetris 99 games are short -- from a few seconds to perhaps 10 minutes, depending on your ability -- but it's easy to get drawn into a pattern of starting a new game when one ends, so how do you break the cycle and put down your Switch?
What drives us to test our skills in various sports and games against those of other people? Do you still have fun when coming out on the losing end?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Pricing structure: Free (This game is free, but only available to players who subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online.)
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo of America
- Release date: February 13, 2019
- Genre: Puzzle
- ESRB rating: E for No Descriptions
- Last updated: March 16, 2020
For kids who love puzzles
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.