Tetris 99: How the attack mechanic actually works

After the Direct last week you’d be forgiven if a little snicker materialised in the corner of your mouth. Using Alexey Pajitnov’s falling block game as their take on the Battle Royale genre may have seemed a little mad. But if you know anything about Nintendo, you know it’s become quite normal for them to pull something straight out of left field and for it to be massively successful and often really fun too. Plus, for many of those that had played Tetris in a competitive setting – the idea actually seemed genius.

After just a few days, Tetris 99 has become a bit of a social media and streaming sensation. Having spent a few hours on the game myself I can confirm it’s marvellously addictive and deceptively difficult. The best I’ve managed is a 6th place finish. However, if you’ve tried out the free-to-play game on the Switch the one thing you’ll notice is there are no instructions. (This is particularly odd on a Nintendo system as the developer is often accused of too much hand-holding.) And sure, everyone knows the basics. It’s been around so long, we’ve acquired the information through osmosis. But Tetris 99 has an unexplained attacking mechanic too.

On top of the ability to store a single Tetromino piece and swap it out at a later stage, the attack mechanic can be a little confusing and if you don’t know what’s going on it can seem to require way more multi-tasking than the average brain can handle. Happily, Ethan Gach (writing for Kotaku) provides a great breakdown of what’s going. It’s really worth a read. But, in case you don’t have the time – here’s a quick summary:

The Basics

  • Clearing two or more lines sends (a) grey garbage line(s) to an opponent. Single line clearances have no attack value.
  • If your garbage lines ‘kill’ (or KO) another player, you earn badges.
  • The more badges you earn, the more garbage you can then send.
  • You can manually select which opponent to target using the left analogue stick
  • Alternatively, you can target those targeting you “Attackers” (down on the right analogue) or,
  • You can target all other opponents “Randoms” (left on the right analogue) or,
  • You can target players near death “K.O.s” (up on the right analogue) or,
  • You can target players with the most “Badges” (right on the right analogue stick).

And that’s it. You are now ready to go on the blocky offensive. See you on the portrait-screened battlefield.

Nintendo Nerd, sharing my love of Mario with the world one pixel at a time.

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