Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Building Blocks: A Tetris Logbook

"Tetris is the game that lasts. In 50 years, those blocks will still be falling on some screen somewhere."
-Seth Schiesel

Whenever a puzzling mood strikes, I can always count on the little Tetris cartridge to quell my connection jones. It's the main reason I've kept a first-generation Game Boy Advance within reach of my eager digits. Of course, Tetris is an essential title for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) mother console. The bright colors, catchy soundtracks and assorted extras (Love the rocket ship that greets high scores!) combine for a wonderfully rendered translation. Still, I usually choose the lock 'n load ease of the GBA over the time-consuming, back-of-the-TV installation of the NES Top Loader. There's something to be said about getting in a few lines while waiting on a friend, lover, doctor or lawyer.

Unfamiliar with Tetris? Here's a brief sketch on the game play. As blocks of various shapes fall from above, your job is connecting them to form a horizontal row. Once the row is created, the blocks disappear and you are credited with one line. Points are increased when more than one row is formed simultaneously. Four simultaneous rows create a "Tetris," which earns premium points. Once ten lines are formed, your level increases by one. The higher the level, the greater the difficulty and point totals become. A "Tetris" at Level 11, for instance, is worth over 10,000 points. For this challenge, I'll make twenty attempts to topple my existing record of 68,368 (111 lines). In the spirit of portability, I'll be taking the GBA handheld with me and contesting some of the action on the go. Should I achieve a Level 12 "Tetris" in between taco crunches at Colley Cantina, I'll be sure to document the feat with salsa-stained hands. Time to build!

12/5/12: My nephew had a doctor's appointment at CHKD/EVMS in Norfolk, so I decided to tag along. The low blood count from the first game wasn't so much of a disaster as it was an adjustment to handling the GBA while in motion (231 points, 3 lines). Test results were way more positive in the follow-up tilt, however, as I nearly approached my PR while exiting the Midtown Tunnel (59,245 and 111). Games 3-5 took place in an empty waiting room. Did the relaxed conditions improve my standing? Not a chance! The cabin temperature was a bit too warm for someone like me. I keep my fan circulating year-round and a "Gunny Towel" nearby. Despite the beading sweat and minor arthritic twitches, I managed a decent total on the third try (36,347 and 79). Ain't gonna comment on numbers four and five, but I'll mention the televised distraction from a channel visitors weren't allowed to change. "Pippi Longstocking" came across like a twisted hybrid of "Dora The Explorer" and those weird-ass Christian cartoons that aired every Sunday morning on WAVY-TV 10 circa 1983-85. Someone needs to sabotage the set with a "Ted" DVD. "FUCK YOU, THUNDER!"

12/8/12: If I had been on "Wheel Of Fortune" instead of in my room, I would've requested many straight pieces from Pat and Vanna. Game six's respectable tally (45,626 and 67) should've been at least 20-thou greater, for I'd built a ten-row wall with an open slot inviting potential "Tetrises" to worm their way through. The Dollar Tree-purchased Sunbeam batteries lasted longer than anticipated, even though most of the round was fought with a red light on the GBA. Pacquiao tasted defeat against Marquez on this night, and I felt much the same way thousands of miles from Las Vegas. The Filipino pugilist had battled valiantly before being tagged in the sixth, but my anemic efforts had less get-up-and-go than Balboa saying "No mas!" to Apollo Creed on the beach. Once again, I paid dearly for painting a high wall in the tenth frame (4,800 and 30). Heck, Jackson Pollock's kid could've done that. After official tournament play, I spent almost two hours practicing strategies for the next day's formations. Will I catch the chicken that Mick let loose, or will I throw in the "Gunny Towel"?

12/9/12: 81,398 and 106! The extra training rewarded me with a new standard in the eleventh game. No matter the pursuit, it's a great feeling to be "in the zone." 12-14 accounted for tomfoolery, but number fifteen threatened to shatter the night's high watermark. Dropping "Tetris" after "Tetris" on Levels 5-7, I accumulated enough points to be within striking distance of the fresh PR after only 75 lines. Six figures, here I come! Or not. On Level 9, the bottom of the screen had six filled rows and an opening on the right, but I wasn't able to flip the desired straight piece in time for a "flash." The log jammed in the upper section and eventually red-inked the "disappointing" grades of 80,816 and 92. 583 points away from another topper? Man, that's like two or three regular connections. Still, it was exciting to be near the entrance sign of a 100,000-point neighborhood. The practice session's highlight was a 128-line game. Dang, two away from Level 13. Time for a cold Barq's and a change of batteries. Just thought of two songs for a possible Tetris mix. I'll reveal 'em later.

12/10/12: Did I reach six figures this evening? Sure, but you'd have to add the respective totals from games 16 (53,061 and 90) and 17 (47,728 and 86) to get it. Nothing to report from 18-20, as the straight sticks decided to take their Christmas vacation days a couple weeks early. The lead-pipe locks for the Tetris mix share a title: The Rolling Stones and Elastica make an obvious "Connection." Actually, the latter's "Line Up" would also be an appropriate choice for the set. I need to crank up the search engine to see if cuts like "Four In A Row," "Straight Line" and "Level Up" exist and are readily available. Post-tourney practice turned in a 130-line result that should've been at least five more. My new goal might be 150 lines, which I'll probably attain before 2062. Gonna break away from Tetris now and try my hand at another Game Boy cart: NBA All-Star Challenge. We'll see how the Suns' Tom Chambers fares against "The Round Mound of Rebound" from the Sixers. "Piece" out!

1 comment:

  1. New high score: 118,097. It should last for a long time.