The name “Dekarisu” comes from “dekai” — “huge” — and “Tetris”, written phonetically as “Tetorisu” in Japanese. In katakana, “Tetris” and “Dekarisu” look pretty similar, too —「テトリス」and「デカリス」— so you can see how the name works. It’s a pretty good name.
It was released in the West as Tetris Giant. What a boring localisation! Couldn’t they have gone with Megatris or something? Gigantris? Megalopotris? Anyway…
It’s big Tetris
This looks like a pretty silly novelty game: it’s Tetris with a big joystick. But it’s surprisingly fun because it really makes you feel big, an effect achieved thanks to a couple of points of design.
First, it has a small play area — six squares by seven instead of 10 by 20. This makes each piece seem bigger, since it takes up such a large portion of the play area. So how come you feel big? Shouldn’t you feel smaller by comparison as you manipulate these giant pieces? Well, in my eyes those pieces are player characters: you are those blocks! Each tetrimino in turn is a player character because it manifests the abilities of the player in the game world. The logical characteristics of what you can and can’t do while each piece is active are bound up in the shape of the piece and how it compares to the landscape of the existing stack. It’s your manifestation in the world of the game, and so it’s the player character.
Second, the massive controls make you feel big, too. How, though? Surely, these should make you feel small, like a hamster on an Astro City button panel, right? Strangely enough, no. The effect in fact is that the tetriminos are no longer something you move with your fingertips but something you move with your whole body. Now you really are a giant Tetris piece, dancing with your entire being across the grid of play! The joysticks aren’t heavy, but you do still shift your body weight a tiny bit as you click them around, and they’ve got force feedback. So if you’re a Tetris piece, can you still be big? Maybe not bigger than you usually are — who can say? — but big for a Tetris piece, yes.
Trust me: it works. Playing Bigtris makes you feel big.
Enormtris prompts some interesting contributions to two discussions that have grown out of other game centre posts.
First, some machines I’ve looked at have raised the question of what can even count as a videogame. Speed Basketball, Punch Mania, and Taco Harry all seem to have a lot going on that isn’t about staring at a screen and clicking buttons. Have they crossed some kind of line, no longer to be discussed as videogames? The main difference between Humongtris and normal Tetris is just a jumbo joystick. Making a plastic thing on the cabinet bigger hardly seems like a very videogamey alteration, but nonetheless, it’s somehow strangely affecting: thanks to that little tweak, you get your whole body into the game and identify with it differently. Does this example encourage us to permit videogames to explore the mechanical as much as the electronic? If Jumbotris is on the videogames side of the line, does it constitute a clue about where the line might be?
Second, a simple giant joystick is so effective that it demonstrates the potential of elaborate cabinets. I was a little disappointed that both the appearance and motion of Space Harrier’s famous sit-in cabinet were completely out of line with the game on the screen. Novel as it was, it detracted more from the game than it added. Meanwhile Mobile Suit Gundam lent a theme-park-ride thrill to the ceremony of the game more than it added anything to the playing of it. I did love both of those games, but here a silly augmentation of the joystick adds so much value that I’ll now be on the lookout for cabinets that can add novelty, ceremony, and substance to a game all at once.
And it’s cheap
I highly recommend playing this if you see it. It’s a total success: intuitive, playable, deep, and presented with great humour. And at ¥100 for two credits, you really shouldn’t walk past it if you’re with a friend.
“Tetris Giant”, though? Pfff…
Next time, something you’ve definitely heard of, but did you know it also used to have a giant button?
(See all postcards from the game centre here.)