Tiny Handheld Boils Tetris Down to Its Bare Essentials

Tiny Handheld Boils Tetris Down to Its Bare Essentials

Rightfully worried about using your phone during a bathroom break? Stressed that you won’t survive three hours of Hamilton at the theatre without a distraction? As the Scouts say, “always be prepared.” But instead of packing bandaids and a pocket knife, keep the Asterisk close at hand for when boredom rears its ugly head.

As pick-up-and-play games go, it doesn’t get much simpler or more satisfying than Tetris — or in this case, “classic falling-block puzzle game,” to keep the the Tetris Company’s lawyers at bay. Right from the first tetromino tumbling down the screen, your brain goes into planning mode, plotting an organizational strategy for optimal stacking density and line clearing that’s sure to occupy and distract your mind. And unlike procrastination mainstays such as Solitaire, which has certain graphical requirements, Tetris can be executed on the simplest of electronic gaming platforms.

Tiny Handheld Boils Tetris Down to Its Bare Essentials

Miniaturizing Tetris is not a new pursuit; Kevin Bates managed to shrink an officially licensed version of the game onto the credit card-sized MicroCard platform, but the Asterisk gets it down even tinier. So named because all of the device’s components are soldered to an asterisk-shaped PCB just four centimeters in size, the itty-bitty handheld is powered by an ATtiny85 microcontroller with a 0.91-inch OLED screen that has enough pixels to display the game and the current score, with high score tracking too.

Power is provided by a single CR2032 coin battery on the back of the Asterisk, while the game itself is played using four buttons: two for moving the tetromino left and right, one for rotating it, and one to instantly drop it on the stack. You can grab one from the Tindie store for just $US20 ($28), but unlike a lot of electronics available through that site, the Asterisk arrives fully assembled, completely soldered, and ready to play.