Tetris 99 - a Fresh New Battle Royale like No Other

February 26, 2019
Tetris 99 - a Fresh New Battle Royale like No Other
Image source: Nintendo official Website

Honestly, 2019 is really weird. I have a Nokia, I’m playing Tetris while waiting for World of Warcraft Classic and I’m considering buying an NES for myself, and at the GameBuz office we bought an Atari 2600 and SNES, we're a really modern console, PC and mobile games news site, aren't we. The Matrix might be glitching again.

Battle royales were getting really annoying and I thought I would be the happiest person in the world if another one were never released, well Apex Legends and Tetris 99 dropped and I found some more love for the genre.

The all-time best selling game that’s almost twice my age managed to find something new to do and give the game a twist. If I had to guess what the twist was, a battle royale mode would not come to mind because how the hell does one turn Tetris into a battle royale, well this is how.


Fundamentally, it’s the same game it was 35 years ago when Alexey Pajitnov first blessed us with it. You control tetrominoes falling down into a well, as the game progresses they fall faster and you try to piece them together into horizontal lines to clear them and not let them reach the top.

This is hard enough when you’re alone, now imagine there are 98 other people that want you to lose and are doing their best to make sure you fail.

Each player has their own well to worry about, but every two lines they clear turn into a line of garbage that will be sent over to someone else. The bigger the combo, the more lines you send over to an unlucky player.

If you manage to KO someone, you earn badges and all of those they had. This isn’t really explained in the game, but we will get to it later on.

You have a small overlay at the top of the screen to show you the attack mode so you know who will be at the receiving end of your garbage blocks. Your choices are Killshot, which will focus on players closest to losing, Badges to focus on the player with the most badges, Attackers to focus on those that are attacking you, and the self-explanatory option Random.

There’s a lot of things that aren’t explained, which leads us to…

Tutorials are so 2018

Image source: Nintendo official Website

Imagine you have to make a well trained secret agent and Tetris 99 talk by any means necessary. The agent will be busy writing a 10-page essay and calling a notary to make everything official while Tetris gives you a cold stare with its mouth firmly shut.

The game feels no need to explain anything, so there’s a lot of questions left unanswered.

Targeting - Yes, there are the four options you can choose from, but they aren’t actually explained. Is the random option completely random or does it have a bias based on specific criteria? How does attacking your attackers prioritize targets? How does KO pick a player if there is more than one on the same level and who will be credited for the KO?

Another method for picking a target is manual, you use the stick to select a player. It’s really useful for picking people off, but you also need insane multitasking skills to use it well.

I can’t really answer the previous questions, but I can say that you should avoid using random and badge because you end up making a lot of enemies and the ones with a lot of badges are usually really good players. Usually, it’s best to counter and when you have a large combo ready switch to KO or manually pick (In my experience at least).

An interesting thing to mention is that choosing to counter your attackers is the only way to attack multiple people at once.

Image source: Nintendo official Website

Garbage lines - Another thing that's not explained is the small sidebar next to your well. What does it do? This one I actually know.

Any garbage sent or received doesn’t take effect immediately, it has a small timer allowing you to plan your next move. The sidebar shows you how many lines of garbage are about to be added and how much time you have left before they ruin your day. During this time, instead of being able to attack, lines you clear will remove lines of garbage that are still on the timer.

As tempting as it is to just destroy an opponent with a huge combo, you should avoid doing that. While you’re getting ready to KO someone, another player might have you in his sight. The best option is to always have a few lines ready to defend yourself if you’re on the receiving end of the mentioned huge combo.

Badges - I mentioned them a few times and much like the game I’m yet to explain their point. Badges are multipliers for how many lines of garbage you can send out. One badge is a 25% increase and every badge is another 25% up to 100% on the fourth one.

You gain pieces for knocking out opponents and you also take their badges on top of that. The first badge is 2 pieces, the next one is 4, the third is 8, and the final is 16.

You don’t have to collect them, but by the end of the match, it’s pretty hard to keep up when everyone else is dropping twice as many blocks as you are.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth explanation of all the mechanics and want to see more tips and discuss them, you should visit this Reddit post.


Image source: Nintendo official Website

I actually didn’t mind not having a tutorial. Games today have a tendency to hold you by the hand and it’s a nice change from that. I missed the feeling of having to find out for yourself and talking to others and sharing experiences to get better.

The matches are quick and stressful, you’ll do fine if you keep your cool and don’t panic. You can quickly jump into a new match after one finishes so there is very little downtime between your next fight to be the best.

It’s a really enjoyable game that you can play casually or really give it your best to fight for the win every time. I’m calling it now, Tetris 99 is an eSport by Q2 2019.

If you own a Nintendo Switch and are using Nintendo's Online Switch service, make sure to pick it up since it’s free.