What was the biggest thing to come out of the USSR in the last 50 years? Correct! It was the Red Army, heading for Germany during World War 2. And the second biggest thing? Correct again! Tetris!
This brilliantly addictive game was (as if you didn't know) all about building 2-dimensional walls using bricks. The aim was to create lines of about 8 or 10 bricks each (with no holes in) so that they'd disappear. It was written by an egg-headed guy called Alexey Pajitnov at the Soviet Academy of Sciences, who obviously had a jolly good time doing it because now he's come up with a brand-new game. It's called Welltris, and it's just like Tetris. Only it's in 3D. Spook! Let's investigate.
Actually, it's probably called Welltris because you're looking down (a rather square) well. What you see are the four sides of the well, and the bottom. Strangely-shaped pieces fall down these sides at random. They reach the bottom, then slide across it to come to rest up against the wall on the other side. During the time they're dropping down wall, you can do Tetrissy things like twist them around and move them from side to side. You can actually move them round from wall to wall too, if you're fast enough. The idea is to make them fit together in lines, but only on the floor of the well. If you start getting loads of holes in your lines and they start piling up the walls, then the use of those walls (for more blocks to tumble down) is blocked out until you can free them. You lose the game when all 4 walls are blocked out, which happens sooner than you think (if you're as crap as me!).
SOUNDS PRETTY SIMPLE, EH?
Well, after all, the idea isn't much more complicated than Tetris. The only trouble is it's a lot harder to play! Just imagine - your poor overloaded brain's got to think about 4 sides where the shapes can fit, instead of just one!
There are only a certain number of different shapes, so eventually you get to recognise them and also how often they crop up. That is unless you complete more than 2 lines in one go, because then you get a bonus piece. This is usually an extremely awkward shape (so it isn't really a bonus at all!) and up really naffing you off because you've just cleared the screen really neatly, and you're feeling dead chuffed with yourself!
The big thing with Tetris was that as you reached certain scores it speeded up. So you'd be in control one minute, then, once you passed the magic score threshold, you'd be snowed under with the little Lego-like chunks. Believe me, Welltris is worse. It has the same system, but makes you suffer a whole lot more because if you much up one piece then it might block out an entire wall. It's murder!
Because the well itself looks rather, er, boring (let's be brutally honest here!), Infogrames have put 'amusing' little 'cameos' of modern Russian life to the side of the screen. Oh dear. Well, they certainly look Russian - they're about 50 years out of date and done in really pinkish colours! Every time the game speeds up the picture changes, say from a stupid ice cream van or something to someone playing a '70's-style guitar! P'raps we'd better ignore these scenes of Marxist bliss and hop back to the well after all, eh? (They're probably there to put you off anyway. Fiendish Johnnies, these Sovs!)
Welltris is a worthy successor to Tetris in that it plays well. The only trouble is that it doesn't quite have a quality feel anout it. Perhaps it's simply those ill-making graphics. Anyway, it's different enough to make it worth buying if you forked out for the original. But if you didn't like Tetris, forget this 'un. It requires the same kind of reactions, logic and concentration.
It's clever, logical and fast, but looks a bit naff. Still, if you like puzzle games, you'll go a bundle.
FAMOUS RUSSIAN THINGS
The emergence of Tetris from behind the Iron Curtain was something of a surprise to those of us in the West who thought the USSR used valve-computers the size of small moons to work out very simple sums.Welltris didn't surprise us as much (mainly because we'd seen Tetris). But we figured there must be plenty of other famous Russian things. We looked into it...VODKAThis tastes and smells exactly like water, so you can drink gallons of it with little effect (apart from wanting to use the toilet). In Russia, it is actually cheaper than water, which is why they drink it.LADA CARSStyle and reliabilty. These cars really get you there. More than that, they make sure everybody else knows you're getting there. And they're dirt cheap, too.RUSSIAN DOLLSThese hide inside each other to save space. When you open up the biggest one, hey presto! - there are loads more, exactly the same but smaller, inside it. Hours of fun guaranteed.CAVIAREThis looks revolting. It's a mass of little black squishy balls. It's very, very expensive, especially when you find out that it's just a load of stupid fish eggs.NUCLEAR FALL-OUT(That's enough Famous Russian Things. Ed)
Once all the side walls have been piled up with bits of the blocks then the game is well and truly over.
The screen is filling up. The block falling is going to be difficult to fit in somewhere.
As the game goes on the speed of the falling pieces increases. (Beat 10,000 and you're doing jolly well, matey).
Sometimes a lucky piece will fit perfectly, almost emptying the bottom of the well. It soon fills up again though.