NINTENDO DS REVIEW: TETRIS DS

What the hell could a new Tetris game possibly include that is new to Tetris? by Mike Chasselwaite

March 21, 2006 - The DS is still considered a novelty in some respects even though it's proven that it can spawn its fair share of unique games such as Electroplankton and Pokemon Trozei, games that exclusively employ the touch features and dual screen. But those features also beckon developers to re-release old games that exploit these features as a new control system which does nothing more than control the same old gameplay. Tetris DS is an example of a game that has been upgraded to take advantage of the DS's control system while maintaining some of the same old gameplay. There are a few new features and modes but nothing that makes the gameplay entirely unique. At the very least, there have been so many variations of Tetris that if you're going to play a Tetris-based game, it might as well be the real thing.

There are tons of modes presented in Tetris DS including two-player modes, local multi-player modes that can accommodate up to 10 players and three online modes in which four players can participate. You only need one copy of the game for these local multi-player modes and it works great. There are less options online but you'll still be able to have some fun challenging players around the world at any time of day or night.

True Tetris fans may think of all of these modes as extraneous and frivolous. They are variations on the Tetris theme and are certain to find favor with new audiences. Those looking for the original Tetris gameplay will have to be satisfied with Standard Tetris which actually has adopted a few new features that weren't available in the original arcade version - as well as the Game Boy version. The hold box is a thoughtful addition although it's considered by many to be a handicap. It lets you store pieces in play for use later on. This feature is helpful for two main reasons. If you can't fit the piece among the existing collection you're not forced to try and squeeze it in somewhere where it can make a mess of your pile. You can come back to it when you need that particular shape. The second use is to store pieces that you know will be useful in completing a Tetris later on in the game. The long, red, four-grid strip is a good example of a piece that can give you an instant Tetris if you can manage to keep a vertical or horizontal line of four grids open for easy insertion.

Another addition to the Tetris gameplay is the ability to rotate a particular piece around after it's been placed into position. Rotating a piece around in the air is an accepted Tetris move but being able to rotate it while in place is a questionable addition. Like the hold box, this feature is not an option. It can't be turned off.

An annoying addition is the integration of other Nintendo games such as Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong that appear on the top screen complete with full animated gameplay graphics and theme songs. It's not only distracting, but it really doesn't make any sense why these games are thrown in with Tetris. It's like adding a McDonalds' playland to a swanky steakhouse. How am I supposed to concentrate on my game with all that stuff going on upstairs? Not to mention the constantly repeating theme music - the same music I had enough of when playing the game from whence it originated.

Yes, you can see the trend can't you? A dumbed down gameplay courtesy of the hold box and the continuously rotating pieces, and appearances by Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda. Tetris is being groomed for a wider, and less intelligent demographic. Unfortunately this included me. I've played the arcade version of Tetris for years and I've never been able to get more than ten minutes of play out of one quarter. With so many different modes isolating and focusing on specific aspects of the gameplay you're bound to get better with all the practice that you'll be afforded as opposed to reaching a plateau that you can't get past.

The Marathon mode forces you to clear at least 200 lines. The Verses mode pits you against the computer for some intense, faux, two-player fun. The most unique mode is Push which is a two-player game in which both players share the same base line. Both players begin with one of the two screens dedicated to their playfield - with each other player's playfield inverted, (upside down). The player that clears more lines will essentially push the baseline up in his opponent's space leaving him or her less room for stacking blocks. Continue winning and you'll push the baseline up so far your opponent will lose the instant that he can't clear a line.

A mission-based mode will have you complete various tasks such as clearing a specific number of lines using only specific shapes within a given time. There are numerous challenges that really get you thinking but some of them seem virtually impossible to accomplish. Failure to complete the mission will add more lines to your baseline.

Tetris DS makes use of the touch controls but not to the point where any particular mode couldn't be replicated on a console. I can't say that I even cared for the Touch mode all that much. You use the stylus to drag pieces from a pile and touch them to rotate them so that they fit into existing spaces among other pieces. There is no time limit to this mode so you can really think each move through before you commit to moving a piece. This is important when the touch control is eliminated from the mode altogether.

This is a very colorful game, but it's also a very busy looking game as it's loaded with Nintendo characters and environments from games such as the Legend of Zelda, Balloon Fighter, Metroid, Excite Bike and Yoshi's Cookies. It's all a little too disjointed and distracting for me. The dual screen is put to good use for the Push mode and the Touch mode but I have to question why Nintendo would waste the upper screen by displaying the gameplay from unrelated games when that space could have been used to magnify the playfield.

If you're sold by the 10-person multi-player mode as well as the online mode then you're probably going to get this game regardless of what I say. I could honestly say that this game will give you a mental workout that could ultimately make you a better Tetris player - but that requires work and dedication - two words that are not synonymous with fun.

Features:

  • Innovative use of DS stylus and dual screens
  • Six modes classic and all-new modes
  • Incredible artwork inspired by favorite Nintendo games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda
  • 10 DS players can battle with only one Tetris DS card!
  • Battle on the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection

By Mike Chasselwaite
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Tetris DS (DS)
3.5
Graphics
It's a very colorful looking game but I don't really need to look up and see Mario going through the motions on the top screen. Very distracting.
3.4
Control
Doesn't make great use out of the touch features. You could play this game on a console and not miss a thing.
2.3
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Relentlessly happy tunes from Super Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda could put you in the mental ward after a few days.
3.4
Play Value
The wireless multi-player modes and the online modes may be the deciding factor in whether you get this game or not.
3.5
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
Preview

You and nine of your closest friends are going to have a lot of Tetrising to do this March. by Vaughn Smith

March 2, 2006 - Nintendo and Tetris make a good team and the upcoming Tetris DS, the first Tetris game for Nintendo's tour de force handheld, will definitely be getting the royal (Mushroom Kingdom) treatment. Not only will players get the classic game of Tetris to play, but the game includes 6 different modes, all based on a different Nintendo classic - Super Mario Bros. The Legend Of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Metroid and Balloon Fighter. The traditional Tetriminos (falling blocks) and line-clearing strategy remain the staples of the game, but the touch screen adds a new element of interactivity, not to mention Wi-Fi play and up to 10 players ad hoc with only one Tetris game!

Company Line:

Tetris DS delivers the most versatile Tetris experience yet. In addition to a number of single-player challenges, Tetris DS features many multiplayer matches that make use of the Nintendo DS built-in wireless functionality. With just one game card, up to 10 Nintendo DS owners can compete in a wild Tetris battle! Players also can log onto Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection to compete in two- or four-player battles.

Each of the six modes of play features a theme based on a classic Nintendo game, such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda or Metroid. The traditional Tetriminos (falling blocks) and line-clearing strategy remain the staples of the game, but the touch screen adds a new element of interactivity. Every gamer, whether competitive or casual, will find a way to reconnect with one of the most popular puzzle games in history!

Standard Mode
This is the place for classic Tetris action! Not only can gamers play the traditional Tetris game to a Super Mario Bros. backdrop, but they can battle against others via wireless LAN and Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.

Up to four people can battle around the world with Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and see how they stack up against others on the leaderboard on NintendoWiFi.com. Additionally, Tetris DS lets up to 10 people battle at the same time via wireless LAN. All that is needed is one Game Card and a friend with a DS!

Touch Mode
We take Tetris to the next level by letting players touch the pieces! With the NES classic Balloon Fighter as the backdrop, Touch mode in Tetris DS challenges gamers to clear lines by moving a heap of puzzle pieces into empty slots. At the top of that heap is a cage of balloons. If a player can get rid of most the pieces and make that cage hit the ground, the cage will open and the balloons will be set free.

Gamers will use a stylus to drag and move blocks from a giant stack to make them fall into horizontal lines. In early levels, players can tap blocks to rotate them just to fit into the open spaces. The mode really gets hard when this option is taken away and better-planned moves need to be made. Gamers get as much time as they need so Touch Mode plays very differently from the other frantic modes.

Push Mode
Gamers will play Push Mode against friends all over the world via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Push Mode lets two players battle it out in the ultimate Tetris tug-of-war!

Themed to the arcade classic Donkey Kong, players must clear lines in an attempt to push the other player to the edge of the screen. Clearing two lines at a time moves the screen down and pushes the opponent into the red zone. The frantic action leads to the game turning at any moment. If one player gives a good push or two, the game could be quickly over for the opponent.

Catch Mode
It's like Tetris in reverse. Instead of controlling the flying Tetriminos, gamers control a flying core of blocks. Maneuvering in a classic Metroid setting, gamers twist and move that core to catch the Tetriminos.

As pieces fall, the core of blocks turns into a mass that can grow to unmanageable sizes if a player isn't careful. To add to the trouble, Metroids fall from the top screen and will deplete the player's energy if they touch the mass of blocks. To keep the core of blocks under control, players need to form a solid square, which will detonate like a bomb and refill the energy meter. It's the ultimate Tetris game of survival.

Puzzle Mode
Yoshi and Mario are in the kitchen baking a big batch of Tetris puzzles! Using the Nintendo DS touch screen, players will decide which Tetris piece to send in to clear the puzzle.

Sometimes the most obvious choice isn't the right one, and gamers will need to clear at least one line with every piece they send into the puzzle. More than 200 puzzles are ready to pose a challenge to gamers of all ages.

Mission Mode
Link and the rest of The Legend of Zelda cast lend a hand in Mission Mode. Players are given scenarios to complete, such as "clear two lines at once." If it happens within the allotted time, gamers move on to the next mission. If not, the game hands out a penalty and fills part of the puzzle with grey blocks.

The outstanding two-player Mission Mode challenges each competitor to finish a task, with the first player to finish winning points. The loser, however, must quickly adjust to prepare for the next challenge. It's intensely fun and challenging!

Features:

  • Innovative use of DS stylus and dual screens
  • Six modes classic and all-new modes
  • Incredible artwork inspired by favorite Nintendo games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda
  • 10 DS players can battle with only one Tetris DS card!
  • Battle on the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection
  • It's Tetris like you've never seen it before! With six highly addictive modes of play, Tetris DS will challenge gamers and gamers can, in turn, challenge each other around the world via Nintendo
  • Wi-Fi Connection.

By Vaughn Smith
CCC Site Director

System: DS
Dev: Nintendo
Pub: Nintendo
Released: Mar 2006
Players: 1 - 10
Review by Mike

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best