Tetris 99 is a battle royale variation of the classic game designed by Alexey Pajitnov. It was released for the Nintendo Switch console in February of 2019 to Nintendo Online subscribers. It takes the simple Tetris formula and amplifies the fun by seeing who among a group of 99 players will survive the longest by clearing lines and sending garbage to opponents.
I was playing Tetris 99 the other day when I noticed a really nice user interface (UI) element. I’ve played the game plenty of times, but this was the first time I realized how well done it is. Check it out!
Do you see it? At the end of a match, the player has the option to head back to the main menu with the B-button or play another game with the A-button. The unique feature is how you press and hold the button to select that option. Let’s go over how this “Hold to select” mechanic improves the user experience by looking at some of the 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design by Jakob Nielson.
Visibility of system status — When you press either A or B, the graphic increases in size, and a red circle starts to form around the icon. This instant feedback informs players that a button is being pressed.
Match between system and the real world — The language is simple. It is easy to understand what the “Main Menu” or “Play Again” options will do.
Consistency and standards — A goes forward, and B goes back, just like most of the interaction on Nintendo systems. Also, the menu appears at the bottom of the screen, just like all the menus in the game. That’s consistent.
Error prevention — Here’s where the beauty of “Hold to Select” shines. Accidental button presses are a thing of the past with this feature. Ever press the wrong button just to have to find your way back. Some programs solve this with a confirmation box that may ask, “Are you sure?” but that is just another menu and another button to press. Hold to select is easier. The confirmation is given when the player chooses not to release the button. If it is the wrong option, they simply release, and the action is canceled.
Aesthetic and minimalist design — It doesn’t get much simpler than circles that mimic a button and a san-serif font that matches the controllers.
It’s been said that good UI goes unnoticed because it just works. Tetris 99 is a great example of this. Not only is the game easy to play, but it also has a great UI to navigate through it. The “Hold to Select” feature is a great design that I feel works for this interface. It’s especially nice how Nintendo applied it here and just makes the experience more enjoyable. Now, I’m off to play Tetris 99 and chew bubblegum… and I’m all out of bubblegum!