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Forgotten Tetris sequel “Tetris Reversed” resurfaces after a decade

In brief: Developers often use GDC panels to relay previously untold stories about the creative process behind well-known games. This year, Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov revealed a prototype for a unique take on the legendary puzzle game that sat forgotten for over a decade. It’s unclear when or if “Tetris Reversed” will be released.

Most Tetris players focus on the top of the garbage heap while attempting to break it down by filling rows of blocks – simple. Tetris Reversed is a prototype based on original creator Alexey Pajitnov’s instructions that encourages more complex gameplay, thought, and planning that encompasses the entire field.

The rules are similar to regular Tetris – players control falling blocks by shifting, spinning, or quickly dropping them. However, the blocks fall in front of colored background spaces, which the player tries to clear. The name “Reversed” comes from the fact that the filled and empty spaces can switch places, thus flipping the playfield. Certain conditions automatically trigger this, but players also have 15-to-20 manual reversals.

Furthermore, cleared garbage leaves behind unplayable space, shrinking the available playing field the more players progress. The goal is to last as long as possible and attain a high score. Reversals can extend the game if players clear all the garbage.

Tetris Reversed was the vision of veteran programmer Vedran Klanac – who coded the physics system for Serious Sam 2. Klanac mostly worked on it in 2012 in his spare time under Pajitnov’s direction, with Guerrilla Games co-founder Martin de Ronde as a go-between. The three conceived the game as part of a charity project, but work slowed to a halt when De Ronde completed Guerrilla’s sale to Sony. Klanac and Pajitnov never met in person throughout the title’s development.

Although Tetris Reversed never saw a public release, Klanac had completed and archived a playable prototype. The idea of the game didn’t re-emerge until 2017 when he mentioned it to business developer Vlad Micu. Only this year did Micu arrange a GDC panel where Klanac and Pajitnov demonstrated and discussed the game in public for the first time.

Klanac said that focusing the gameplay on the entire screen brought Tetris Reversed closer to the board games that inspired the original. Pajitnov called it “Tetris for 300 IQ people.” Although Tetris Reversed may never see the light of day, the original game that inspired it is still popular despite being four decades old.

Even within the last few months, competitive players have leapfrogged the high score on the NES version several times. After Willis “Blue Scuti” Gibson became the first human to beat the game in January by intentionally crashing it under a specific set of conditions, another pro – Andy “P1xelAndy” Artiaga – posted an unprecedented score of 8,952,432 points last month, beating Gibson’s record by over two million. Mere weeks later, Alex Thach nearly doubled Artiaga’s record with 16,248,080 points, winning $2,600 and becoming the first person to exceed 10 million.

However, the so-called final challenge of clearing level 255 and causing the game to reset remains unconquered.

Image credit: Torley

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