WordTris. (computer game) (Evaluation)
by Carol Holzberg
It all begins so innocently. First one letter blcok drops into a well; then another, and another. Mildly intoxicating Russian music wafts gently from speakers attached to the computer sound card. You suspect nothing. Welcome to WordTris.
Casually, you reposition the falling letter blocks before they land on the water. The goal is to form words with three or more letters. The more words you spell, the more points you accumulate. Soon you notice that some words earn higher scores than others because they contain obscure letters like Z, Q, J, and X rather than common characters like S, T, A, and E. You secretly wish for more of the high-value letters to drop.
"This is easy," you smugly tell yourself. Completed words disappear from the well, leaving you more room to maneuver. Then it happens--you progress to another level. Letter blocks begin to drop more rapidly. Again you rally to the challenge, adjusting your reflexes to accommodate the faster speed at which letter blocks now fall. Your score rises steadily. You're on top of the world!
Suddenly, the computer beeps again--the telltale sign that you've made it to another level. More letters fall. Where are the vowels? Why do you get four Ls in a row? The activity becomes difficult.
Your nerves begin to fray. You're all thumbs. Blocks start to land on to of other blocks, pushing the lower ones underwater. Soon sunken blocks reach the bottom of the well. columns of blocks stack above the water line.
At first, it's possible to get sunken and stacked letter blocks to disappear. The game accepts words spelled horizontally or vertically no matter where they lie. At higher levels of play, however, blocks fall so rapidly it's hard to regain control. Mercifully, the game ends when a letter block reaches the top of the well. Peace of ind returns.
Is WordTris a last-ditch Soviet attempt to capture the hearts and minds of an unsuspecting American public? Perhaps, but it's also a terrific computer game that builds vocabulary skills as it improves hand-eye coordination. Play alone, against a friend, or cooperatively with another challenger. Match wits against three players in Tournament mode. All four of you play identical games to see who earns the highest score. There's even a Head to Head option allowing challengers to play on separate computers connected via cable, modem, or Novell network. Every game type offers four difficulty modes--Children's, Novice, Advanced, and Expert. Each has ten levels of play.
No matter which game or difficulty mode you choose, WordTris has "potato chip" appeal. It's impossible to play just one round. Magic Words, Special Bonus, Eraser, and Mystery Blocks, combined with your unrelenting desire to earn a place of honor on the high-scorer list, will keep you coming back.