Quarth, Arcade

Quarth is a brilliant mixture of Tetris and shoot ’em up and was first played in arcades in Japan in 1989. Outside of Japan it is known as “Block Hole“, which – let’s face it – is a stupid name, so I’m sticking with the original name, Quarth.

In Quarth the idea is fire single blocks upwards at a series of block shapes that are descending down the screen, in order to make complete squares or rectangles. If you make a square or a rectangle on a single shape then it disappears and you get points based on the size of it. If you can manage to create a single, big square or rectangle on a series of shapes connected together, then you get many more points. The risk in doing this, though, is that the shapes may reach the bottom of the screen before you manage to fill in the entire shape, in which case you’ll lose a life. It’s an interesting risk/reward system that makes Quarth unique and challenging. You can either pick off the individual shapes, or go for one big one – if you’re fast enough.

What helps is that the spaceship you control (at the bottom of the screen) can fire without restriction, and can fire repeatedly, meaning that you can actually clear a series of blocks very quickly if you’re confident you know where and what to shoot up the screen. Shoot too many blocks into the wrong place and you may end up losing a life because you screwed-up. Fire multiple blocks into just the right places and you can end up earning big points. A Quarth expert will be able to fire quickly and confidently, whereas a newbie might be slow and methodical.

One thing to note is that the blocks do speed up as you progress through the game, making Quarth more challenging as the initial slow waves are cleared.

Another thing to note is that the game can be played by two people simultaneously – each player having their own side of the screen in ‘versus’ mode, or playing on the same screen cooperatively.

Although Quarth is a relatively obscure game it has been converted to many home systems, including: Game Boy, Famicom, MSX, and Wii. It’s also appeared more recently on various phones, on the Nintendo 3DS, and on PS4 and Nintendo Switch. So may be more widespread than it used to be. Quarth is an excellent game, though, and is well worth checking out if you’ve never played it.

More: Quarth on Wikipedia


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