Tetris 99 Review (Nintendo Switch)

Just days ago, Nintendo surprise-announced Tetris 99 for the Nintendo Switch, which brings the Battle Royale concept to the Tetris universe. Tetris 99 is developed by Arika and published by Nintendo. The game pits you against 98 other Tetris players in a real-time fight to the death.

If you’re a Tetris nut like me, that sounds like a recipe for an amazing game. Best of all, the game is free, although it does require a Nintendo Switch online subscription to play. A subscription costs $20 per year, which is significantly less than pretty much any other competing gaming service.

A few notes on the overall experience outside of the gameplay: As of this writing, the game itself is pretty bare bones. You can view some stats but as far as I can see there are no real leaderboards. You can choose between two pre-programmed control schemes. But there’s no private games for you to set up between you and a limited number of players, nor can you party up and enter a Battle Royale game together with friends. You also can’t play against bots. Early reports have suggested that there will be updates to the game, so hopefully at least some of these options will be added in a future update, but we’ll see.

When you get into the game, it’s basically the Tetris we all know and love. The Tetriminos move the way you’d expect. You have the option to hold a piece to deploy later, plus to see a listing of six future pieces you have coming up.

However, there are some important tweaks to the gameplay you should understand. When you clear lines, you send what’s called garbage lines to other players that are currently still playing. You can use your right thumb stick to target four different types of players with your garbage:

  • Random, which distributes your garbage randomly
  • KO which distributes your garbage to those that are closest to being knocked out.
  • Attackers which distributes your garbage to those that are attacking you
  • Badges which distributes your garbage to those with the most kills, or badges

You can also target users by using the left stick and moving your reticle over an individual player on the screen, or if you’re using the Switch as a touchscreen, you can just tap on the player you want to target. I found targeting players individually to be a bit too much to manage, so I just generally went with one of the main four options.

When you KO a player, you get badges for doing so and you also collect any badges that that player had. Each KO gives you a certain percentage of a badge – two KOs gives you one badge, four KOs gives you a second badge, and so on all the way to 16 KOs for the fourth badge. The more badges you have, the more damage you inflict on your opponents.

Speaking of inflicting damage, the bar on the left side of the screen shows you what garbage is being sent your way. The garbage doesn’t appear on your board instantaneously – that’d be pretty overwhelming. Instead, it appears after a certain amount of time. It starts at gray and eventually turns yellow, red, and when it’s on fire, that’s when it’s about to deploy. Any lines you get during this process will go towards clearing the garbage that’s targeted at you.

As the game progresses, you may want to try keeping track of want to switch your targeting to KO the most amount of people, or the people with the most badges, or ideally both. A well placed KO late in the game can give you the badges you need to win the game.

A few other gameplay notes that may help you:

  • Certain line clears will get you more garbage lines sent. For instance, a tetris will send four lines, but T-spins in particular sends out a bunch of garbage. A T-spin that results in three lines cleared can send six lines, plus any multiplier badges you may have.
  • If you do an all-clear, which means clearing all lines off the board, you send out four garbage lines, plus any multipliers.
  • If you are being attacked by many players at once, you get garbage line bonuses for each clear. For two opponents you get one line, and for three or more opponents, you basically get an extra garbage line sent out per player.

I found Tetris 99 to be incredibly addictive and polished. I don’t remember ever experiencing any lag, despite playing with 98 other players on a wireless connection. The classic Tetris gameplay is immensely enjoyable and satisfying. It’s an amazing feeling to KO a bunch of players in a row, or to find yourself in a challenging situation and need to build yourself out of it. Plus, I love the remix of the classic soundtrack, which manages to sound new while still obviously paying homage to its predecessors.

Overall, and I’ve already gotten $20 of value out of it, which is the amount I paid for Nintendo Switch Online for a year. I hope they continue to add to it as time goes on.

If you like the inventiveness of Tetris and you like the Battle Royale, you’re going to love Tetris 99. It’ll remind you why Tetris is so ridiculously addictive in the first place, and why this game is one that continues to stand the test of time.

How to make a documentary in one day

Love this video from the newly-rebooted Indy Mogul about how to make a documentary in one day. The tips, which are elaborated in detail in the video, are as follows:

  1. Start with your own curiosity
  2. Find a character
  3. Write it out
  4. Throw out your script
  5. Just start

Nightline’s post-mortem of Theranos

Nightline has a new two-part post-mortem of the Theranos scandal that’s worth watching. Of note: they were able to obtain deposition footage of disgraced CEO Elizabeth Holmes acknowledging some of her deceptions, plus an interview with the COO’s defense lawyer. I also appreciated that they got in touch with a Theranos customer to allow people to understand the human misery and wasted resources that this company was capable of causing.

I read reporter John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood last year and found it to be thoroughly engrossing, but almost a year later I’m still really shaken by what the Theranos case says about our culture. Here was a CEO that was making claims about her product that were, on their face, medically impossible. Through some really skillful self-hype and through a corporate culture that prized silence and complicity (and punished anyone who stepped out of line), she was able to convince the world she was right to the tune of a $4 billion valuation.

It says a lot about a culture that we allowed this to happen, and that our only bulwark against it was a lone journalist willing to risk his own livelihood to find the truth.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray Review

The Mission: Impossible – Fallout 4K Blu-Ray is a great home video package. Included in the box are three discs: A 4K UHD version of the film, which includes some of the special features like the commentaries, a Blu-Ray version of the film, and a separate Blu-ray disc that contains the rest of the special features. The biggest downside of this release is that it doesn’t match the box art for Paramount’s recently released 4K Mission: Impossible set. Really makes you wonder who Paramount is making those sets for, because in general, anyone who’s going to buy a 4K box set of all these films is probably going to watch those discs to match. Just going out on a limb there.

In terms how the feature presentation looks, it’s great. The movie’s shot and lit beautifully and loses very little in its journey to the small screen. Of course, Fallout was shot on a a mix of film and digital and this does make for an occasionally jarring viewing experience, but this is something that was present in the theatrical presentation as well. The sound mix is also great and it’s a particularly great way to experience composer Lorne Balfe’s score, which is one of my favorites of the franchise.

When it comes to special features, the highlight is the feature length commentary featuring Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie. McQuarrie is an extremely generous filmmaker. Even before this disc was released, I’ve probably listened to about 8-10 hours of interview with him, but even so, I still Learned a few things about the production of this film listening to this commentary. And if you’re a fan of Tom Cruise, it’s great to hear his enthusiasm for the storytelling and the stunts of this film. He seems genuinely excited about the movie and grateful to his cast and crew to have the chance to make it.

On the special features disc there are a few cool things worth noting. First of all, instead of “deleted scenes” there’s a Deleted Scenes Montage. It’s a bunch of deleted scenes cut together with finished color grading and visual effects set to music. The objective of including this was just to give you a sense of all the hard work put into this film that you didn’t see. I personally would’ve preferred to see all the complete deleted scenes here, as it would’ve been fascinating to get more insight into how they decided to structure the final story. But my sense is that director Christopher McQuarrie wants us all to think of the final film as the definitive version (the “Director’s Cut” as it were) and putting in completed scenes might’ve muddied the waters a bit.

There’s also a ton of featurettes about the making of virtually ever major set piece in the film, where you learn really cool tidbits about production, like how they did hundreds of jumps prepping for the halo jump sequence, or how they needed five helicopters for that chase sequence at the end, or how they needed to airlift 150 crew onto the site for the final fight that they shot at Pulpit Rock. It’s all fascinating stuff and reminds me of the heyday of Blu-Rays when discs were just loaded with content.

But it’s not all perfect. One downside is that a lot of the special features are edited in a really distractingly frenetic way. It felt like the person making these didn’t trust they could hold the audience’s attention throughout literally an entire sentence, so you end up with sequences where they are cutting mid-sentence and you have like 4-5 people contributing to that same sentence? After awhile of watching this, it got pretty distracting. I wanted to say to the creators of this disc, “Hey, what you’re showing me is already pretty impressive. Please don’t edit this to ribbons, thanks!”

The second thing is that everything on this disc and these special features is meant to convince you that Tom Cruise risked his life to make this movie. I have no doubt that people put themselves in danger, but the special features do a lot to downplay all the safety precautions that were taken. It’s never about “Here are the 15 things we did to make sure Tom Cruise didn’t die,” it’s always about “Here are all the ways things could’ve gone wrong for Tom Cruise.”

I’m not sure if we should be celebrating the fact that Tom Cruise almost died making Mission: Impossible – Fallout? On the one hand, yes, we’re living in an age where advancements in CG have made audience skeptical of virtually anything they see on screen. And it genuinely is impressive that Tom Cruise did a lot of this stuff practically. But it’s also true that a lot of it was augmented with visual effects, and the special features barely talk about any of that at all. For me, I would’ve been much more interested in how they were able to combine both the practical and the digital, and how the director made those calls. But fundamentally, that’s not the story these features are interested in telling.

In a time where stunt people have actually died while making movies quite recently, the idea that this billionaire risked his life for us just feels like a weird message to hammer home in this piece of mass market entertainment.

Those minor issues aside, if you’re a big fan of Mission: Impossible – Fallout like I am, I think you’ll find this disc is worth your money. I just wish they had made the box art match.

Here is a list of all the special features included in this disc:

  • Behind the Fallout (Featurettes)
    • Light the Fuse
    • Top of the World
    • The Big Swing: Deleted Scene Breakdown
    • Rendezvous in Paris
    • The Fall
    • The Hunt is On
    • Cliffside Clash
  • Deleted Scenes Montage with Optional Commentary by director Christopher McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton
  • Foot Chase Musical Breakdown
  • The Ultimate Mission
  • Storyboards
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Commentary by director Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise
  • Commentary by director Christopher McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton
  • Commentary by composer Lorne Balfe
  • Isolated Score Track

The two conversations that defined ‘Better Call Saul: Season 4’

Here’s a brief video on what I loved about Better Call Saul this season – specifically, the two conversations in the season finale that define the arc of the characters. It’s really impressive when a prequel can chart new territory from its predecessor, and I think the show has done just that.I wrote, filmed, and edited this video over the course of just a few hours on Saturday. I hope you find the insights to be worth your time. If not? S’all good, man.


I’ve been under the weather after my trip to Virginia, and the travel didn’t improve things (it turns out when you have sinus issues, you shouldn’t get into an aluminum tube with recirculating air hurtling across the country at 500 miles per hour!). But I hope to back to full functionality soon. In the meantime, here are some interesting links I’ve come across: