Tetris DS (Nintendo DS)
When reflecting upon their dominance of the handheld market, Nintendo more than likely recalls the game that started it all. When the Game Boy was first released in 1989, it was packaged with a mind-numbingly addictive puzzler known as Tetris, which not only helped Nintendo begin its stranglehold on the handheld market, but also helped rejuvenate the puzzle genre. No puzzler had achieved its popularity since the days of Pac-Man and Space Invaders.
While Pac-Man has tried to jump into the 3D realm with little success and a new version of Space Invaders was released with hardly any fanfare, Nintendo decided to release Tetris for a new generation. With the DS, Nintendo saw an opportunity to reinvent the wheel and include new gameplay modes. In addition, they also saw a chance to pay homage to some of 8-bit gaming’s most hailed franchises. Thus, Tetris DS was born for the Nintendo DS with the hope that the legendary puzzler would still retain the elements that made it wildly successful in the past.
Sure enough, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Tetris is still as addicting as ever. The Standard mode returns, which is simply normal run-of-the-mill Tetris. The object is to pile up as many solid lines of blocks, called Tetriminos, without letting the heaping stack reach the top of the bottom screen. There are seven different shapes of Tetriminos to work with. The more successful lines completed, the faster new Tetriminos will fall.
The homages begin from the title screen, as Nintendo has included many of their favorite mascots to brighten the overall experience. Throughout the game’s many modes, Nintendo mascots will adorn the top screen and unplayable portions of the bottom screen. Each mode has its own theme, including a running animation of Super Mario Bros. for the Standard mode. While the mascots are certainly good eye-candy, paying attention to the running animation can grow difficult as gameplay intensifies. If gamers are skilled enough to reach one of the higher levels of Standard mode, they will likely be too immersed in trying to keep the Tetriminos straight than viewing the running Excitebike animation. However, the gameplay never gets so intense that a player is unable to appreciate the classic video game themes of games such as Metroid and Balloon Fight.
The new modes are what truly enhance Tetris DS. They are original enough to breathe new life into the franchise, while remaining simple enough to entice casual gamers. Catch mode sees players trying to form four-by-four blocks of Tetriminos while dodging falling Metroids. Mission mode puts a new twist on old-school Tetris by requiring players to clear lines while fulfilling certain objectives, all to the sound of the classic Legend of Zelda overworld theme. Push mode pits two players against each other on a two-sided field, in which they try to push the field of blocks into each other’s “end zone” and scoring a victory.
Touch mode utilizes the DS stylus to rotate Tetriminos and clear an entire field; an exciting new way to play the game, hampered only by the mere five levels available. Finally, Puzzle mode features 200 increasingly difficult puzzles in which a fixed number of Tetriminos must be used in order to clear a field. These new modes are all fun in their own way and will attract Tetris fans of any skill level.
These fans can clash in the game’s multiplayer mode. Ten friends can play Tetris DS through local DS Download Play or four people can connect through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Two friends can play the Push mode while up to four competitors can collide in the Mission or Standard modes, the latter of which include classic Mario Kart-style items in order to create a truly chaotic experience.
The only major flaw within Tetris DS is the Infinite Spin feature. Purists will remember that high-speed blocks often fall in the wrong spot without any opportunity to move it once it lands. With Tetris DS, players can continue mashing the A or B Buttons to keep the Tetrimino spinning until placed in the desired spot. While this can be a benefit to novice gamers, skilled players can exploit this feature to keep the game going on forever. That last sentence is not an exaggeration. While reigned in during multiplayer modes, high-level gamers can easily surpass 1,000 lines in single-player Standard mode with the Infinite Spin feature, thus cheapening the entire experience and making it boring.
Overall, Tetris DS is an incredible game. Single-player has an amazingly long shelf life and multiplayer will keep players enthralled long after they’ve tired of the single-player mode. Tetris DS is an absolute must-have and is easily worth the $29.99 MSRP. Puzzle enthusiasts will rejoice and eagerly place this title beside their copy of Meteos. In the end, it turns out that the only game that can beat Tetris in terms of quality and fun-factor is a fresh version of itself.