Developer: Xio Interactive
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★½
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

1 “Mino” is short for “tetromino,” which in turn should be a familiar term for any Tetris fans—because this is a game that we’ve seen quite a few times before. Mino, however, features a key feature missing from previous tetromino-based games in the app store: competitive online play, complete with rankings. It sure isn’t perfect, but it’s not half bad.

If you’ve ever played Tetris–and I’m sure that you have–you’ll feel right at home. It’s the same old line-clearing action, and there’s nothing too surprising here. However, some fancy new features aren’t present: you won’t see gimmicks like the official Tetris game’s “magic” items or even the hold function. Nope–this is old-school, pure and simple.

Oh, sure, there’s a bit of variation. “Glacier” mode offers normal gameplay with a minor twist: “garbage” lines flood the board as you play, and while you can hit the “SLOW” button to delay their appearance, it makes survival much more difficult. “Standard” mode is, well, standard.

Before I launch into a look at the online modes, something has to be said about the controls. If you’re a Tetris fan, you’ve probably bought the official, EA Tetris. Let me say up front that I hated the control scheme in the official version. In Mino, you have two options: the drag-and-flick touch-scheme that works just like the EA version, or three arrow buttons at the bottom of the screen. (You can use any combination of the two.) It works…okay, but the tetrominoes aren’t, well, “sticky” enough. I’ve often been frustrated by a block that I thought was firmly in place, only to tap the screen and rotate it accidentally. Also, there’s no “ghost” feature, just like in the old Tetris, so trying to properly place a block can be difficult.

The D-pad buttons at the bottom don’t allow you to do a controlled drop, only a fast drop. The only way to do a slow drop is to wait, or to drag the block down, which can lead to inaccuracies. Playing without being able to reserve blocks for later (the “hold” feature) is difficult. Still, it shouldn’t take too much to polish them up a bit, and I actually found that, as time went on, the control scheme began to feel perfectly natural, and I loved the fact that I could easily switch between the two methods. Give us an option for a d-pad slow-drop and I’ll be a happy camper!

And now for the real draw of Mino: online multiplayer.

5Signing up for an account in-app is easy and takes all of ten seconds. Once you get to the main Online Multiplayer screen, you have six options: Ranked Game, Join a Room, Top Scores, Profile, Chat, and Report Bug. This soon after the game’s release, the community is very small, but you can always find a Ranked Match within a few seconds, it seems. (Ranked Matches are 1-on-1 random match-ups.) As usual, clearing lines sends junk lines to your opponent’s screen. Ranked Matches are fast—perfect for the snack-gaming that is the iPhone’s hallmark—and are often challenging. It’s painless to set up, and it’s a lot more fun than the endless litany of level after boring level. After your match concludes, you’ll see the impact on your ranking in line-graph form, along with the same data for your opponent.

“Join a Room” takes you to, well, gaming rooms. They’re usually quiet, but if enough people are online you can jump into a multiplayer game of (unranked) competitive Tetris with up to four other players. You can also chat in the game rooms, or elect to watch a game.

And, of course, competitive online gaming wouldn’t be complete without global leaderboards. They’re here…no need to fret about that!

The presentation is decent, though not anything over-the-top. There aren’t any unnecessary frills. The background music is good enough, and not annoying; nor are the sound effects a nuisance.

While I think that Mino will finally enable me to play Tetris on the go (I junked the official Tetris app long ago, and my basic phone doesn’t have Tetris), it does need some tweaks. A slow-drop button-based option. A hold feature. More special bonuses: “Combos” exist, but what about score bonuses for Tetrises or Triples? A scoring guide would be helpful, as all Tetris incarnations approach this in a different way. The ability to create friends lists, and to challenge specific users. Local multiplayer (bluetooth?). The list goes on.

All in all, though, Mino is a good incarnation of a great game, and the multiplayer side of things really shines. If you’re a dedicated Tetris fan, I highly recommend this one over EA’s official app. Plus, the lite version even lets you try 30 rounds of online multiplayer! It doesn’t get much better than that.

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