Review: Tetris for the iPad (EA)

Tetris: still great after all these years.

Tetris for iPad is an optimized/juiced-up version of the game available on the iPhone. It will cost you $7.99 to buy.

First of all, everyone loves Tetris. If you don't love Tetris, you are more likely than not some sort of weirdo. I mean even communists love Tetris. They invented it after all. These were people who had to wait in line to buy toilet paper and paid massive markup prices for a pair of Levi's Jeans on the black market. I mean these poor people needed something to cheer them up. I can imagine that the epilogue to Rocky IV would have shown a shamed, depressed and exiled Ivan Drago playing Tetris to cheer himself up. Yes, I bet that mean, juiced-up, killer of Apollo Creed turned to Tetris for solace.

For many people, their first experience with Tetris was the free version on their first generation Game Boy. Others might have been directed to it by their cubicle neighbors. Imagine the massive number of productive work hours lost to the game. One of the unique and fantastic things about the game is its diversity of gamers: kids, grandparents even non-gamers love Tetris.

Unfortunately, it has been somewhat tarnished over the years. The various versions available on cell phones have cheapened it. They all felt the need to add some nonsense in the form of additional game-play modes that usually sucked. The controls were often unresponsive. We all put up with it because it was Tetris; and despite the flaws, it was still pretty good.

Nuts & Bolts

As with virtually everything I've used on the iPad, this game looks great. I think the iPad just does that to everything that appears on it. The screen is just that terrific. BONUS TIP: If you are looking for love online, hope that whomever pulls up your profile picture is using an iPad. The game can only be played in portrait mode.

The marathon mode apparently has unlimited levels. This is a welcome feature. I remember a cell phone version I had maxed out at like level 11. While that helped my fragile ego, it sucked from a challenge level.

Tetris plays just like Tetris has always played in your standard marathon mode. The "tetriminoes" look terrific, big, bold and vibrant. BONUS FACT: Tetris pieces are called tetriminoes or a tetrimino. I had no idea that was the case until the game told me that. NOTE TO MATH NERDS: No need to point out that if I didn't suck at geometry I probably would have known that.

The game does allow you to cheat a little by placing pieces on "hold". This permits you to hold off on using a piece coming your way and reserving it for later use. Not to get preachy, but don't cheat at Tetris, that really sucks. Any kids you have now or in the future won't be able to look you in the eye if they find out. I felt dirty just testing the feature.

Like other recent versions of Tetris, there is an additional new mode. Here it is called Magic mode. Don't get too excited, it isn't that great. This mode allows you to use different tools to assist you in playing. A hammer to smash pieces, a vice grip to shrink pieces down to a single square, the ability to turn set pieces into bubble wrap and then pop them by touching the screen, that sort of thing. The bubble wrap thing was sort of cool. It is a nice additional mode, but is generally just filler.

The music sucks. Some weird computer generated techno-type stuff. You hear the original Russian-type music at some of the menu screens, but not during game play. I guess EA felt the need to update it. You are able to replace the default music with music you have in your iPod on the iPad. That is actually a really good idea.

Your stats are tracked in tremendous detail. I mean like Fantasy Baseball nerd detail.

There are some issues. Sometimes it seems like the screen isn't as responsive as it should be. There was also something unheard of on an Apple device... crashing. Yes, I said crashing. Wow, Steve Jobs better not find out or else EA will be in big-time trouble. Truthfully, the crashes were not frequent and mostly occurred in the tutorial modes. Nonetheless, that is crashing, which I was really surprised existed.

Dummy Factor/Game Play/Playability

This is Tetris, so everyone should know the general game play. However, on the iPad, you have a couple of options.

You can play the default mode, which is pure touch screen. Drag the piece (I'm still not comfortable saying tetrimino) to the left or right to position it where you want. There is a "ghost" mode which shows you where your piece will end up. You really ought to cancel this feature out in the options menu (that whole cheating thing again). Tap the screen on the left to turn the piece counter clockwise and tap it on the right to turn it clockwise. Swipe down fast to move the piece into place very quickly.

There are some issues with playing in this mode. You have to get the pressure of your taps just right or the piece won't move. Also tapping the screen to move the piece gets less effective at the higher levels or when you are in trouble and things are moving fast.

Your other option is to play with a D-Pad. It is a touch D-Pad on the left side of the screen. There are two buttons on the right for rotating the piece in whatever direction you like. This reminds you of playing on the Game Boy. Although this doesn't take full advantage of the touch screen, it is the more comfortable way to play. I believe both Game Boy players and non-Game Boy players will prefer this.


  • It is Tetris
  • It looks great
  • You haven't played a version of Tetris this fun since you were a wee little tyke with your Game Boy
  • The D-pad mode really plays nicely
  • Unlimited levels


  • Pure touch-screen mode is not the best
  • Some minor crashing issues


Should you buy Tetris? I'd say yes, you should spend $8.00 on this game. You will get your value from it easily. You can expect the hours of fun you are accustomed to. Not very many good things came out of the Evil Empire known as communist Russia. There are a few: Rocky IV, Red Dawn, a whole bunch of great 80's action movies with really menacing bad guys, a variety of high quality vodkas and then there is Tetris. You know you are tempted to buy it, and you should not resist.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

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