Review by discoinferno84

"Tetris is back. And this time, it's personal."

You're hunched over in a chair, with a little drool forming on the edge of your mouth. You've lost all sense of time and space, barely even registering the pounding of your heart and the sweat slowly rolling down your forehead. You've been sitting in this position for thirty minutes straight, but for you, time is some forgotten aspect of your normal life. Hours, minutes, and seconds mean nothing right now. The only thing that matters right now is the seemingly endless cascade of blocks on the screen. Should you manage to get them all lined up in a nice orderly fashion, you'll be justly rewarded. That's assuming, of course, that you don't screw up. And you will. Somehow, you're going to misplace a block, mess up your ingenious strategy, and all your hopes and dreams for a high score will be tossed asunder. When that infamous Game Over screen appears on the screen, you'll scream in frustration, drown yourself in hot, salty tears, or succumb to your addiction and start the whole ordeal anew.

If you've ever played Tetris, that scenario should sound eerily familiar. Originally released in 1989, this game took the handheld market by storm as one of the first must-have titles for the Gameboy. While it wasn't a particularly impressive game at first glance, it made up for its shortcomings with pure, unmitigated addictive gameplay. Just one sitting could draw a man into the realm of the falling blocks, steal his soul, and leave him gripping his Gameboy until the batteries wore out. The appeal of Tetris lay in its simplicity; your goal was to line up a series of oddly shaped blocks at the bottom of the screen. Should you complete an entire row of blocks, they'd vanish from the screen, allowing more room for the never-ending deluge. If you didn't complete a row, however, the blocks would continue to pile up, eventually breaching the top of the screen and putting your mad gaming skills to utter shame. The constant struggle between your abilities and the game's increasing difficulty make for some truly intense gaming sessions. Accordingly, Tetris remained one of the most popular handheld games ever made. That's a tough act to follow. Thankfully, Tetris DS not only follows up the old classic, but also makes it fun all over again.

So, how do you take such a simple, archaic game and make it into something that seems new and refreshing without screwing the whole thing up? Luckily for all the Tetris veterans out there, Nintendo didn't change the basic gameplay at all; you've still got the same blocks, the same shapes, and the same rows to eliminate. There are new difficulty and VS CPU options to tinker with, but the Standard Mode is essentially the same as it was all those years ago. However, it doesn't end with the classic gameplay. Tetris DScomes packed with five additional gameplay modes to master. Should the unthinkable happen and the Standard Mode go stale, you can test your skills against the AI in Push Mode, which operates as a two-way Tetris match. Complicated rules aside, you eliminate a row, you push your opponent's blocks further towards the bottom of the screen and utter damnation, and vice versa. If you want to try something even more unconventional, you can give Catch Mode a spin…literally. You'll start off with a single block in the middle of the screen, which can be positioned and rotated to snag falling blocks. Once you've amassed a certain amount over a given area, your big chunk of debris will self destruct, granting you plenty of bonus points and more room to keep playing. But if you feel like giving your mind more of a workout, the Mission and Puzzle Modes will grant you dozens of unique objectives to chew on, such as eliminating rows with certain blocks, creating chain reactions, etc. But if slower-paced gameplay is more your forte, the Touch Mode allows you to position and rotate different blocks to topple a pre-made block tower with varying degrees of difficulty. Needless to say, this isn't just an old game from Russia anymore.

Of course, tackling Tetris DS by yourself can be a fairly limiting (albeit incredibly entertaining) experience. For all of you craving something truly great from your DS games, this title features plenty of multiplayer options to keep you and all your gaming cronies playing. The Download Play feature can support up to ten gamers at once, with only a single game card to set the whole thing up. Just imagine the kind of havoc that can be wrought when the game heats up as you utterly demolish your friends with a decent variety of bonus items and your mad puzzle gaming skills. But if you want to make things a bit more interesting, you can always utilize the game's Wifi Connection capabilities, which can support up to ten gamers duking it out over the Internet. There are options for the who you battle, be it by random searches or through the use of Friend Codes, handicaps, teams, and a few other nifty features to keep things interesting. Will your confidence in your abilities be enough to take down the countless other Tetris DS gamers around the world? Let's hope so.

However, the gameplay isn't the only thing to get revamped. Considering how bland the original game looked (at least, by today's standards), it' little wonder that Tetris DS sports some new imagery to catch your eye. Though all of the blocks come in the usual variety of shapes, they all have bright and distinctive colors to help you keep track of what's falling down the screen. Should you shift focus from the Touch Screen to the top screen, you'll find a few different levels and scenes from classic Nintendo games being depicted. It'll start off with Mario traversing the old school Mushroom Kingdom, seemingly wandering around with no intention of progressing through the level. However, that changes when you start eliminating lines with the blocks. The more lines you take out, the faster Mario will go through a level, from the old grasslands all the way through a final confrontation with 8-Bit Bowser. After a certain number of liens have been taken out, the top screen will change from Mario into The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Balloon Fighter, Ice Climbers, and a few other surprises. All of these scenes come complete with remixed versions of the classic tunes, which ought to send older Nintendo fans reeling with nostalgia. While an idea even more remotely original would have been great, at least Tetris DS gives a decent salute to the games of old.

I never thought I'd say this, but Nintendo has figured out how to improve the original Tetris. They've done so without ruining the quality of the classic gameplay style, which can make or break this kind of game. But instead of trying to tweak something great, they've piled on a bunch of new game modes to grab seasoned gamers' attention; even if taking on an endless barrage of blocks isn't your style, the remarkably well-done gameplay and puzzle modes ought to be enough to keep your hands and eyes glued to your DS. Not only that, but the game is capable of hosting massive multiplayer battles, both online and off, a feature that add even more longevity to it. And lest we for get, the game is loaded with imagery and audio ripped and remastered from some of the most popular Nintendo games ever made. Yes, Tetris DS looks as if it were created solely for the fans. However, it should not be limited to such an audience; the undeniable quality of this game is something for everyone to enjoy, like it was all those years ago.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 05/24/06

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