"It's just like Tetris, right?" That's what I was asked when someone peeked at my iPad screen while I was playing Slydris, the new game from Luke Schneider's RadianGames imprint. The answer is no and yes.
Slydris operates on the same falling-block template pioneered by Tetris and, yeah, you're still aligning the tumbling shapes into horizontal lines to clear space on a vertical playfield. But Slydris finds unique ways to differentiate itself from other efforts to recapture the glory of Alexey Pajitnov's all-time classic game.
The blocks in Slydris don't come in different shapes like Tetris' tetronminoes. They're either rectangles of varying size or small squares that take up one spot on the grid. And the falling quadrilaterals come in groups of three, too, forcing you to seat multiple items in the right place. In addition, the block drops don't happen automatically in Slydris and only trigger when you slide something into a new position.
More modern touches like achievements and power-ups get folded into Slydris' recipe. Clearing a line with a single colour gets you a special buster block that breaks down bigger pieces of the same hue into more manageable squares. You also get bombs -- good for blowing up three rows of blocks off of the gameboard -- for clearing successive lines.
The urge to play quickly is the enemy in Slydris and that bit of dissonance reminded me of Drop7, one of my favourite iOS games ever. I constantly had to force myself to slow down and take in the whole board, poring over the playfield to see the consequences that would follow a move I was thinking of making. Sometimes blocks come up from below and if you don't pay attention, they'll screw up that glorious combo cascade you were trying to set up.
Slydris represents an elegant evolution to a well-knownplay style, ones that adds multiple vectors of variance to sliding-block. You'll want to play it like something you already know, but it'll kick your arse if you do. A game that forces you to learn new rules while looking like a familiar experience and that happens to be fiendishly clever to boot? Just one more reason that everyone needs to pay attention to Luke Schneider and every single RadianGames release.
Nihilumbra ($1.99) [iTunes App Store, iPad only]