EA speeds Tetris up with freemium gold

Puzzle game Tetris might be nearly 30 years old, but we’re still playing it, and now Electronic Arts has come up with a way to make us even more addicted, with a new version of the beloved game that comes with a catch that could seriously catch you out.

When Alexey Pajtnov created Tetris in 1984, it was installed on government computers and eventually affected productivity so much that it had to be removed from the systems.

That is obvious proof that Tetris is addictive, and anyone who has ever played the game knows it better than anyone else.

This week, Electronic Arts is releasing a new spin on the game with “Tetris Blitz,” a free title coming to iOS devices, with an Android version making itself available soon enough too.

The concept of Blitz is still the same: send shaped blocks that appear in a random order to the bottom of the screen to make rows that will disappear. With Blitz, though, the difference is speed, and there is a lot of it.

In Tetris Blitz, your blocks will automatically show outlines of where they can go, and while the rotate block buttons is still there, this one shows you what the rotation options look like too, with pre-designated places the blocks can go.

Once you’ve worked out where you want the block to go, select the location and move onto the next block, doing all of this while making and clearing lines, all in the space of two minutes.

Frenzy mode

As you go charge through, line by line, you’ll find some of the blocks change into special blocks that help you kill lines more quickly, earning more points, while bonus Tetris effects can be used to clear lines in a creative way, such as with “lasers” or an “avalanche.”

While Tetris Blitz is tremendous fun, there’s some aspects to its design that we have a serious issue with, and that’s the reliance on freemium content.

If you’ve taken a look around any of the app ecosystems currently online, chances are that you’ve seen the free games available. There are loads of them, and the lure of something for free is strong enough to entice anyone to at least check them out.

Like high scores? Be prepared to spend.

We’ve explored this at least once before, but the biggest downside (we’ll call it an annoyance) is that these so-called free games often come with the sting of needing to spend money in order to make the gameplay better.

For instance, in EA’s “Real Racing 3,” you can play the game the way it is and buy cars with in-game money, or just spend some real money and buy whatever cars you want up front.

Over in the world of “Fieldrunners 2” from Subatomic Studios, you can earn coins by beating the bad guys to buy more impressive guns. But if you want, you can part ways with some real coins and buy in-game coins to purchase firepower more quickly.

You can still play both of these games, as well as the many freemium titles out there, without spending real money, but the incentive is that you can play the game more quickly and with better features.

Tetris Blitz continues with this tradition of asking you to part with money in exchange for features that will give you a higher score. While we don’t have a huge problem with this – that’s the freemium model in a nut shell – we take issue with how Electronic Arts has gone about accomplishing this.

Buy now! Or don't. Pressing "X" didn't work for us, and the only way out was pressing "buy now." Frustrating.

One way you can see this is with the special features, which include tiny weapons that help you clear lines faster. Cool, no worries, and these will all help you gain a better score. And, the better you do in game, the more coins you generate to buy these Tetris-busting weapons.

Our problem is that with every game, you’ll find the screen offers you a chance to purchase more coins, and this happens to often that some times it seems like the only option and… it is.

Notice how there's no way to get out of the "not enough coins" screen without buying? You have to wonder if that's intentional.

Take this screen for instance, where you can see the Tetris weapons you can use to help you get a better score. These cost the amount of coins per game, and you’ll use those coins with every time, so if you keep one of the weapons and don’t have enough, you’ll be told that you don’t have enough coins.

But rather than give you a way of closing the window and deselecting, the only option you’re presented with is “buy more coins,” which is great if you want to, but lousy if you don’t.

Instead, you’ll need to click the option, close the window down, and hope you never get caught without coins again.

This sort of coin persuasion happens frequently, often it’s when you’re presented with a new feature and you’re asked to buy. Also worth pointing out is the use of ads at the bottom of the app, as well.

It’s a shame EA has spent so much time trying to get people to convert real money into fake money, because if Tetris Blitz was a paid-for title that managed around $5-10 – a premium part of iOS game pricing – we’d be happy to pay, if it wasn’t just for all that annoying push to take even more of our money.