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Tetris DS (DS) artwork

Tetris DS (DS) review

"I've said before that Tetris is one of the few games that will never, EVER get old. I stand by that statement, and no matter how many times countless developers will try to reinvent it to make more money, the basic, primitive game of Tetris is probably all we'll need. "

I've said before that Tetris is one of the few games that will never, EVER get old. I stand by that statement, and no matter how many times countless developers will try to reinvent it to make more money, the basic, primitive game of Tetris is probably all we'll need.

I can't blame them – if Tetris is so timeless, it makes sense to release it over and over again as consoles and handhelds grow and develop, but if you JUST give us ANOTHER version of Tetris, well, we're going to feel like we've been ripped off.

Enter Tetris DS.

It is exactly what its title implies – a new wave of Tetris, with never-before-seen spin-offs of the classic formula, and a wireless multiplayer mode to take advantage of the Nintendo WFC system. The new stuff is there to ensure you – at least, as far as Nintendo is concerned – that there is reason to buy this one even though you probably already have about a million other versions of the game sitting around.

This works out better than you'd think. It's made by Nintendo, which at least guarantees some level of quality in the production. It also means that each mode is laced with Nintendo-themed nostalgia, which serves no real purpose in the gameplay but is better than, I don't know, a generic outer space background or something. There are six modes in Tetris DS; of them, three are great, two are passable diversions, and one is really, really stupid.

Standard Mode is where it's at. This is like every other version of Tetris we've ever seen. Blocks fall in groups of four, you align them, everyone gets happy. Talk about a winning concept – it's been around for two decades and it's still one of the most addictive videogames in existence. No wonder so many imitators have spawned. If I really need to explain in detail how this game works, please remove yourself from HonestGamers, because you're not wanted here.

Seeing as how this is the most “important” mode on the cart, we get a Super Mario theme to go along with it. (Because for sure Mario isn't already the most overused icon in the gaming world.) His presence will give you a good idea of what to expect with the other themed modes – as you play, Mario is seen in the background, completing levels of Super Mario Bros. starting with the hills of Mushroom Kingdom and leading up to the obligatory confrontation with Bowser. I don't know who would pay attention to this stuff when they're playing freakin' Tetris, but I appreciate the effort that went into this game's presentation.

Anyway, this can be played online, and it's unsurprisingly the most enjoyable aspect of Tetris DS. But you wouldn't spend forty dollars on nothing more than a new portable Tetris, now, would you?

Nintendo's unique spin on the multiplayer Tetris formula is Push Mode, spiced with a hint of Donkey Kong. In this one-on-one Tetris battle of sorts, you play a standard round while the other guy plays below you, upside down. As you clear rows of blocks, you'll “push” your foe down/up to the end of the arena. The object is to force your opponent to the end line. Very intense, and very fun.

But the most innovative new take on Tetris is with Catch Mode. This game is constantly scrolling up (and is thus given an appropriate Metroid theme) and puts you in control of a single block, with which you must “catch” sets of blocks as they fall down. As blocks are connected, your bunch deteriorates. Missing sets of blocks will detract from your health; but getting an oversized central set of blocks is not a good idea, either. It's difficult to get used to, but is nearly as addicting as the classic concept that inspired it. Extremely enjoyable and well executed.

The next two modes aren't as successful. They feel obligatory, and are kind of fun until the novelty wears off. The first is Puzzle Mode, sprinkled with Yoshi's Cookie. This mode gives you a group of Tetris-themed puzzles in which you're shown a set of near-completed rows of blocks that must be solved using the Tetris pieces you're given. It's a good idea, but it feels too limited – you can't always select the piece you want, and you can't choose where you want to PUT them. In a sense, it feels too hand-holding, and it wasn't long before I left this one for good.

And since this is on DS, Nintendo must must MUST include a mode that shows off its system's unique touch screen capabilities. Thus, we get Touch Mode, decorated with Balloon Fight graphics. This mode hands you a tower of rather unorganized Tetris pieces and asks you to clear lines by moving the pieces left and right with the stylus. Another good idea in concept, this mode leads to too many dead ends and ultimately feels too randomized.

But at least these modes are tolerable, which is something I can't say about Mission Mode. This mode, which unfortunately tarnishes my beloved Zelda series by plastering an 8-bit Link all over itself, gives you specific tasks to perform while playing an otherwise standard game of Tetris, such as completing two rows at once, or, um, completing three rows at once. It's a silly idea that has no place in the Tetris universe, and is simply too frustrating to be any fun.

You'll have to excuse me now. I've detailed all of the modes and can't seem to find a way to gracefully shift to my closing paragraph.

So anyway.

I do kind of recommend Tetris DS in that I'm happy I bought it – five of its six modes at least gave me some sort of amusement, no matter how brief, and its classic Nintendo themes only make its atmosphere that much more impressive. Yeah, we've seen a million versions of Tetris already, but having played Tetris DS extensively, a million and one versions may not be so bad.


Suskie's avatar
Community review by Suskie (August 09, 2007)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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