The Tetris movie is taking some notable liberties with the true story it's adapting, but with all the car chases and KGB beatdowns there's one glaring issue that's driving me up the wall - everybody's playing the wrong versions of Tetris.
The story of the creation of Tetris and its worldwide release is long, labyrinthine, and absolutely worthy of a Hollywood adaptation - even accounting for some liberties in the telling. If you want the full story there are some excellent (opens in new tab) documentaries (opens in new tab) you can watch online, but in short: Tetris was originally developed in the Soviet Union as a hobby project by a programmer named Alexey Pajitnov. After a number of people from outside Russia saw the game, a business battle to be the first to license it for worldwide release broke out. One of the people involved in that battle was a Dutch game designer named Henk Rogers, who serves as the inspiration for the movie's protagonist.
We see three versions of Tetris being played during the movie's trailer. One of them is the original monochrome green version Pajitnov developed for a Russian computer called the Electronika 60. This is the authentic, original version of Tetris, and it seems to be used properly here.
The other two versions are, uh, less accurately deployed. In one scene, Rogers' children are playing the 1987 PC version of the game, which was the first one to be released commercially worldwide. In real life, this was the first version of the game Rogers encountered, and if he's demoing it to his family, this version might be the one to pull. The problem is that the kids are playing this version on a Famicom - the Japanese version of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Not a computer.
Two DOS versions of Tetris make appearance in the Tetris movie trailer, both presented as being played on a Famicom:- the Spectrum Holobyte 1987 version, played by Rogers' kids- 1986 Academysoft version, played by Hiroshi Yamauchi pic.twitter.com/z9SJuoiUXEFebruary 17, 2023
It's a similar story in the trailer's closing stinger, where Rogers shows off Tetris to Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi. Here, Yamauchi is also playing the game on a Famicom console with a controller. But once again, this is a PC version - the one developed in Russia for the IBM PC. It says to press the spacebar on the screen and everything. This Famicom does not have a keyboard hooked up!
Do these issues matter? No. Will anyone but the most hardcore of retro gaming nerds (that's me) care? Also no. Really, I'm just trying to figure out why I care so much more about the right 80s version of Tetris being used than I do about all the invented KGB drama. At least the film accurately describes Tetris as "the perfect game."
The Tetris movie is due to hit Apple TV Plus on March 31.
Tetris certainly isn't the first of the best retro games to get the movie treatment.