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Greetings comrade! Forget Fortnite, FIFA and Grand Theft Auto V – there’s only one game that really gets the pulse racing and it’s as simple as they come. Tetris and its crazy music is still alive and kicking, with huge numbers of knock-off versions to join the official one. But which is the best free Tetris app?
To find out, I got down to the serious task of testing the biggest-hitting Tetris games for iOS and Android phones, whittling down the longlist to four options. I then gave each a score out of five gamepads (🎮) to crown the overall tsar…
It’s fitting that we begin with the official option from Electronic Arts. However, if you’re expecting to be immediately transported back to your childhood, you’ll be thoroughly disappointed.
The old adage goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but in the case of Tetris, I’d add a small addendum: “and definitely don’t litter it with adverts until it becomes almost unplayable”. There are pop-ups before you play a game, a banner at the top while you’re playing and, you guessed it, ads if you want to continue. In short, it’s not a pleasant experience.
It’s a shame because a lot of thought has obviously gone into keeping Tetris fresh: for example, there’s a new “Explorer” mode where you use your block-busting nouse to discover planets and triumph over rival explorers.
Most damningly, the gameplay itself is clunky: your thumb swipes have to be very precise and accelerating the speed of the block often causes it to fall in the wrong position. You’ll quickly be muttering under your breath.
Worst of all, Electronic Arts have mucked around with the holy of holies: the gameplay music. Instead of the comforting plink-plonk of the 1980s version, you get a Europop-esque twist that takes approximately 0.1 microseconds to start grating.
How the mighty have fallen. If you’re interested in trying out the new modes, it’s worth giving Tetris a quick try, but otherwise you’ll get a better experience with almost any of the knock-off alternatives.
Ah, 1989: the first episode of Home and Away airs on ITV, Arsenal win the title in the last minute of the season, New Kids on the Block reign supreme and Tetris makes its debut on the black-and-white Nintendo Game Boy.
If you’re pining after those halcyon days, I’ve got good news for you: there are plenty of “classic” Tetris apps that promise a tap down memory lane. Brick Classic is one of the better options, offering a no-frills experience – complete with 1980s-inspired music.
As you’d expect – and maybe want – the controls are less than intuitive and the design of the app is a little ragged around the edges (the top advert bar is particularly annoying), but all the old controls are there. You work your way up from Speed and Level 1, and are given a preview of the next block. And that’s your lot.
Simply put, Brick Classic is all about nostalgia – it’s like discovering an old cassette mixtape or revisiting a TV programme that scared the bejeezus out of you as a kid (*cough* The Demon Headmaster *cough*). The game’s fun for a few hours, but it’s unlikely to win a permanent place on your device.
Best free Tetris app: Tetra Classic (Android)
“I just want to play normal Tetris! Is that too much to ask?” I hear you cry impatiently. Well, Tetra Classic is the closest you’ll come – if you have an Android phone.
It’s all present and correct: a simple interface, primary-coloured blocks, an unobtrusive preview of where the piece is going to land and, hallelujah, no adverts whatsoever. In fact, there’s nothing else whatsoever – no paid-for extras, modes or even music.
After the official Tetris offering, Tetra Classic feels like slipping into a pair of worn-in trainers. Yes, they might be a bit stale, but they do the job and are comfortable to wear.
So, if you’re heading off on a long train journey or killing time in a featureless waiting room, Tetra Classic will easily absorb the minutes – and please Tetris purists and newcomers alike.
Okay, this is a controversial choice. Are you sitting down? Aside from being an excellent and addictive game, Kubik is… 3D. Yes, I’ve been singing the praises of classic-style options above, but Kubik is the closest to capturing the pure simplicity of the original game.
There are no bells and whistles: you start a game and that’s it. There’s no ultra-fast mode, no missions to capture a planet and, best of all, no adverts. Press play and you’re confronted with a 3 x 3 3D grid, which you rotate with a thumb to fit in the falling bricks.
It may sound easy, but it requires a bit of brain reprogramming as you realise that there are far more options that traditional 2D Tetris – something that makes new high scores that little bit sweeter.
But the good things don’t end at the gameplay: I’m a fan of the unobtrusive, Brain Eno-esque music and the design emphasis is on primary-coloured minimalism. Think of it as “hipster Tetris”.
There’s one small concession to the primal urge to unlock extras: you can add different environments – such as a desert island (complete with a cute swimming whale), snowscape, alien planet and volcano – by collecting coins.
If that doesn’t sound like your shot of vodka, go for one of the nostalgia-fests above, but if you’re game for a challenging and beautiful app, Kubik should be at the top of your list.
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