Few games can lay claim to not just starting a genre but also popularizing it and remaining a force to know in previous years as Tetris. Alexey Pajitnov's classic puzzle game not only invented the well-based puzzle game genre but also remains its most recognizable citizen. Over the years many others including Pajitnov himself have sought to score another hit adopting the forumla with some tweaks to gameplay and design with varying success. Dannobot Games' Opposites initially has the appearance of an also ran, but its unique twist on the title offers one of the most compelling Tetris variants which stick to the tried-and-true gameplay that I've seen.
Opposites is basically Tetris turned over on its side. Pieces drop horizontally into a fallen well from left-to-right, many of which will be familiar to Tetris players. Opposites offers a few new piece types beyond Tetris' tetromino set including various lengths of the straight piece (all the way down to a single block) and a shortened "L" piece. Most of these new shapes will come in handy as Opposites will throw all kinds of twisting base gaps the player's way since the "bottom" is always being eroded away by the second player. While the goal of the game is to form solid lines across the well same as most any Tetris game, here it's more than a simple scoring mechanic as each line formed "raises" the well on the opposite side of the screen, shifting the blocks closer to the edge and hastening the end of the other player.
It's a rather brilliant mechanic. The color scheme effectively makes it so that the opponent is creating the other player's well and vice versa. Opposites is a tug-of-war with each player seeking to make the best of the situation at any given time as the lack of a static base to build upon makes for a constantly evolving and hectic situation. An opponent is fully capable of sabotaging a work-in-progress at any time by simply laying a piece "down" and expanding the other player's well, perhaps by increasing the size and shape of a gap he or she was looking to fill in to complete a line. Opposites reminds me of constantly evolving board games such as Carcassonne and Zertz, games in which the player must constantly survey the landscape and adjust plans accordingly for success. It's a terrific take on the versus puzzle genre which manages to keep the core gameplay of Tetris and still turn it into a highly competitive (or cooperative) experience.
Unfortunately, Opposites looks cheap and passable, and the game's low end presentation does little to sway one from that opinion. Weighing in at under half a megabyte, Opposites is a very simple game low on aesthetics and options. While the game does offer on-line play which is wonderful, the game skimps far too much on its graphics, sound, and options to the detriment of the otherwise excellent game within. There's no reason to offer such a barebones package here, and I'm certain the relatively high (by Xbox Indie standards) selling price coupled with the cheap look is going to unfortunately turn many people away. I know I found it a bit much myself and was sufficed with the demo, because as impressive as Opposites' core gameplay is here, the game as is only offers depth and enjoyment to those capable of finding others to play with frequently. Allowing on-line multi-player should help significantly in that regard, but it remains to be seen how many people take the time to Download a game advertising itself with two-color graphics at a $3 price next to the more attractive listings out there.