Amstrad Action1st April 1991
Published in Amstrad Action #67
Remember Tetris, that Russian puzzler that was all a load of blocks? (It certainly was on the Amstrad!) Welltris is the sequel - and it's four times as tough.
With Tetris, the idea was to guide differently-shaped blocks onto a pile of the things at the bottom of the screen. Every time you formed a solid line with no spaces, that line disappeared, lowering the level of the pile. Of course, if you didn't form solid lines, the pile got higher so that you had less time to get the blocks into position, so that you had less time to form solid lines, so that the pile got higher and you had less time and... and... and when the pile reached the top of the screen it was game over and you were reaching for the tranquilizers.
Welltris adds another dimension to this simple but fiendish gameplay - literally. Instead of just one 'wall', there are four, joining up to form a 'room' or 'well'. Now, the blocks slide down the wall and across the floor before coming to rest - and that makes a lot of difference...
Now you can move blocks around the walls to attack the pile in the middle from any angle. And you can rotate the falling blocks as before for even more brain-boiling, panic-stricken, joystick-waggling. And there are other itsy, witsy changes...
Firstly, your main object is to stop the floor filling up with blocks. As soon as one block overlaps a wall, that wall changes colour and is out of action until you've landed three more blocks. It's not the end of the world when you lose the use of a wall - it's when you lose more than one that things start getting interesting, especially if they're facing each other. Then, you're limited to the wall subsequent blocks appear on...
In practice, you lose the game when all four walls are put out of action. On the lower levels, it's difficult to see how anyone could be this clumsy, but later on, as the blocks speed up and panic sets in, things get out of control very fast.
Just like the original Tetris, Welltris is broken down into a series of levels. You stay on each level until you've scored a certain number of points and then you move up to the next, slightly faster one. Since the basic game is graphically a bit weedy, each level has an accompanying little picture of daily Russian life.
But there's more. While the blocks in Tetris were composed of four squares, those in Welltris can be composed of two, three, four or five! Welltris has three difficulty levels, and on the first the blocks are made up of two, three or four squares. On the second, they're made of four squares only and on the third it's two. three, four or five.
Control is by joystick, and there are two control methods to choose from. The first moves the blocks about strictly according to direction, so that on the bottom and top walls (as you look at the screen) you should move the 'stick left and right, while for the side walls, it's up and down. This is very, very confusing. The other control method makes much more intuitive sense - you just use left and right to move the block clockwise or anticlockwise around the walls.In both cases, pressing Fire rotates the block and pressing Space sends it sliding quickly to the floor (handy for speeding the game up during the easy early stages). Incidentally, once the block is on the floor, you have no control over it.
The graphics are all done in four-colour mode, but the game doesn't really suffer as a result indeed, the screens are quite 'clean'. Sound is minimal, consisting of encouraging noises when you get a line to disappear and discouraging ones when you block off a wall. But this is a brain-teasing puzzle game, not a mindless arcade blast - what more do you need?
Welltris takes the simple geometric puzzling of Tetris and add a greater depth of gameplay. But Tetris's charm was its simplicity - Welltris is undeniably a 'bigger' game, but it's also more complex. However, although Tetris was great on other formats, on the Amstrad it was crap. So in that respect at least, Welltris is a huge improvement.
Tetris in 3D is even more of a challenge! Though it's slightly more complicated to play, it still retains the charm of the original, and should provide hours of fun for hours to come.
First Day Target Score
Survive Level Four.
Only four colours, but 'clean' and perfectly adequate.
Not much sound, and what there is is simply functional.
Grab Factor 85%
Very easy to pick up, and good fun as the panic sets in...
Staying Power 92%
The sort of game you can never really beat.
Challenging, long-lasting and addictive... but lacks the simple appeal of the original.