Tetris DS Review / Preview for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Tetris DS Review / Preview for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

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.


  • 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

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