X in a row

For Windows users in general, the first encounter with X-in-a-row games wouldbe Bejeweled, a game that very suddenly became popular as a simple but highlyaddictive "switch-Tetris" game. I call it "switch-Tetris" because it's really aTetris variant; blocks have to be arranged together to clear the board, andwhere in Tetris the arrangement is spatial - the blocks have to form a row withno spaces - in X-in-a-row games the idea is to line up three or more blocks ofthe same shape/colour/picture vertically, horizontally or even diagonally, notby moving pieces, but by selecting two blocks (hence, "switch-Tetris") to switchplaces. Tetris usually has falling blocks, and ends when the screen fills up;switch-Tetris variants may have blocks dropping from above or moving up frombelow, but generally start with a filled board where the spaces created bycleared rows of blocks are rapidly filled up with new blocks. In this case theyhave a timer so that the hypnotized viewer will not be clicking away into thesmall hours. Usually, two blocks can only be switched if this results in atleast one of them forming a row of three or more. A lucky switch can make tworows, and a very lucky switch leads to an avalanche of blocks as they drop intonew rows and delete themselves. Watching the screen empty itself like this isvery satisfying indeed.

Since I steered away from the "Bejeweled" craze - the last thing I neededwas some addictive clicking game stealing my precious leisure time - the firstinstance I saw of this kind of game was in, a KiSS set for UltraKiSS. One of the three games in this set isHashira, a Japanese Tetris version. Bars of three blocks drop down; using thecursor keys, I can move the bars to the left or right, or change the order ofthe three blocks within the bars. This game accepts diagonal as well ashorizontal and vertical rows, and going for diagonals is often my only hope ofmaking some space on the board.

My addiction really started with Crack Attack, a Linux clone of a game calledTetris Attack, prominently present on the Asus EEE PC that I'd bought for longtrain journeys and which was supposed to make me do some work, but ended upbeing used only for games. Sadly, it hangs in openSUSE 11.3 (not the firstsimple game to have problems in that distro) but I've installed it in LinuxMint, where it works like a charm. In this game, where blocks can only beswitched horizontally, not only do the blocks slowly move upwards from thebottom of the screen, but they get big bars dropped on top which only convert toblocks if a block supporting them vanishes after ending up in a row. Mainly dueto these bars, the game always ends very quickly for me.

The third game, KDiamonds, is the type with a filled gameboard (in a choiceof three sizes) and a timer. It makes up for being the least appealing game byhaving a changeable tileset, which means that it's skinnable.