iPhone Gems: Tetris Clones and Other Grid-Based Games

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Last month, we looked at a collection of “action puzzlers” in iPhone Gems, so it’s no surprise that we’d to back to the proverbial Tetris well to see what’s new in this category.

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Today’s edition of iPhone Gems looks at three different Tetris clones, as well as some other titles that use grids as backdrops for action and/or strategic puzzle purposes. Skip straight to Cubes Lite and Tris for our best free picks of the collection, and KuGon for the top paid game here.

BreakTouch 3D


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We enjoyed Bootant’s Break Classic, a colorful, slightly more lively clone of the classic block-breaking title Breakout. As an alternative, the company has released BreakTouch 3D, a title that initially seems to be more exciting than the original—now the field is in 3-D! You get to scroll around a tube and break blocks on all of its sides! And you still have the same multi-ball and other drop-down items found in Break Classic!


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Except here, it just doesn’t work. You spend all of your time scrolling around the well trying to bat back the ball, and if you try to fetch or maintain a multiball, you’re almost certainly going to lose the original ball trying; the physics engine is also an issue, as balls sometimes get reflected back improperly from the rounded paddle. In sum, though BreakTouch 3D better shows off Bootant’s nice OpenGL 3-D engine than did Break Classic, the visuals are unfortunately wrecked by the gameplay. The lack of music, simple sound effects, and generally not fun action make us think this should have been included for free in Classic as an alternate mode; it’s really just a pretty demo with a pricetag. iLounge Rating: D+.

Cubes Lite


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Manta Research’s Cubes Lite (Free) is, in a sense, what Nintendo’s Tetrisphere would have been with a little less structure: you are presented with a cube made up of colored cubes, and your goal is to eliminate clusters of same-colored cubes in a manner that generates a score equal to or higher than the target. Whenever cubes are removed, the remaining cubes tend to clump together, creating additional scoring potential. The only trick here is that eliminating the most conspicuous cubes first leads to too low of a score, so you’ll need to figure out ways to get more blocks to merge together; we found this fun to play for free, but had no interest in buying the $3 full version called Cubes. The Lite version is worth seeing. iLounge rating: B.



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We’re going to give IVRealms some credit. By iPhone game standards, the puzzler KuGon ($3) may be a math nerd’s sort of game, but it’s pretty smart and reasonably balanced. You’re given a grid with two types of empty spots—squares and octagons—to fill with numbers. Squares are addition blocks, and the octagons are total blocks, such that adding the numbers in the squares surrounding an octagon will lead to the total. You’re supposed to use a combination of logic, hints provided by the game, and the rare occasional guess to try and figure out the right values for all the empty blocks in a puzzle; every six puzzles you solve gives you the answer to a wholly unrelated trivia question and a piece of wallpaper art that can be added to your iPod or iPhone’s collection.


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IVRealms has created a game that, while not exactly exciting, certainly keeps you thinking; eventually, you learn how to use the provided hints in combination with logic to solve puzzles, a skill that keeps your mind sharp and actually could prepare you for certain educational entrance exams. The developer also has gone far beyond the boundaries of what we’d call a demo, as well, with slightly varied art, enough stages, and decent rewards that wouldn’t be confused with the sloppier titles we’ve seen on the iPhone to date. And we can’t object to the $3 price tag either, which seems about right for this title; a free version called KuGon Lite gives you a six-puzzle taste of the title if you want to see if you like it. While not right for everyone and light on audio, KuGon is a legitimately good game that will satisfy brainiacs until they beat the nearly 100 levels—serious players could do this in a day, everyone else will spread it out. iLounge Rating: B.



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It’s hard to complain about a free clone of EA’s $10 Tetris game, right? No. Of the three Tetris knock-offs we look at today, Macer Software’s TetoTeto!! (Free) is unquestionably the worst of the bunch, though it has nice enough graphics. Basically, the developer has chosen a weak input method—taps on bottom-of-screen buttons, combined it with the first Tetris engine we’ve seen that completely messes up the standard distribution of blocks, and then included zero audio.


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The end result doesn’t feel like playing Tetris. It’s like seeing Tetris blocks as dispensed by a vengeful genie, giving you the wish you’d once made for the same straight blocks or cubes to keep coming up again and again; that’s the point at which you realize that without the right blocks, the right controls, and some sound effects, Tetris just isn’t any fun. Even for free. We’d be very surprised if the developer didn’t make some major changes to this title over time; as-is, it’s pretty bad. iLounge Rating: D.



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If there’s anything worse than getting a bad Tetris clone for free, that would be paying for a bad version of Tetris. That’s where Nigel Williams’ Touchcris ($2) comes in, as yet another unfinished, audio-free, demo-quality iPhone game with a price tag. Here, you get the standard Tetris well, the right general balance of dispensed blocks, and some almost normal controls—swipe to move the block, flick or tilt the iPhone to rotate. In practice, the controls wind up eliminating any precision you might want to have while playing, but that’s not the really weird part of Touchcris.


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For some reason, the developer has come up with a bizarre system of multi-touch tricks that need to be learned to do simple things like… restarting the game once it has ended and apparently crashed. You need to touch the screen simultaneously with three fingers to pause, four fingers to reset, and five fingers—think about that for a second, and try it on your phone—to activate a mode where the well displays in a forced 3-D perspective, in some cases cropping off part of the screen. It took us 20 or more tries to get the 3-D mode to activate, and then, it added nothing to the game; like BreakTouch 3D, the graphical twist just made play less fun. This effect is the only thing that’s remotely unique here, but we wouldn’t consider dropping even a cent on this title until the control and interface issues are sorted out. iLounge Rating: D+.



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The best of these Tetris clones is Noah Witherspoon’s Tris (Free), a straightforward version with simple but clean graphics and intuitive swipe-and-tap controls. While the game’s collision detection is a little less precise than the original Tetris’s, the controls aren’t up to snuff with EA’s version, and its movement of blocks down the well has a certain unusual pace and staccato rhythm, Tris looks and feels pretty good.


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For the price. You don’t get any of the frills included in EA’s version, which not only did Tetris justice but then expanded upon it with a number of cool powerups, slick visual transitions, and real audio—all of which were worth paying at least a little for. However, Tris plays the basic game pretty well and doesn’t cost a thing; we can live without changing backgrounds, sound effects and music when the game is free. If you’re in need of a Tetris fix and don’t want to pony up $10 for EA’s version, start here. iLounge Rating: B.

Earlier iPhone Gems can be found here.