Review by Tenshi No Shi

"Cue the Russian music."

It's been a while since I played Tetris. I long while. In fact, It was The New Tetris on the Nintendo 64 that I last played the most addictive puzzle game ever. Oddly enough, before that it was the Tetris/Dr. Mario collection on the Super Nintendo, then Tetris on the Nintendo Entertainment System and, of course, the original Tetris on the original Gameboy. Why is it that Nintendo seems to be the only company that can make a simple game right?

Story? You do know what Tetris is, right? Yeah, unlike other inferior puzzle games, Nintendo doesn't need to dress up its brain teaser with a plot (I'm looking at you, Meteos).

Of course you'd think with a game like Tetris there's no way Nintendo could really give the game a graphic overhaul. Well, they have. No, not to the actual Tetriminos themselves but rather the playing fields, game modes (more on that later) and menus have all received the "Nintendo" touch- The playing fields all have classic Nintendo backgrounds or themes to them that make the game more interesting. For example, in a standard game of Tetris, the top screen depicts events from the original Super Mario Bros. game (resplendent in all their 8-bit glory) that progress as you clear lines and your score increases, almost like a mini-movie that unfolds based on how well you play. It's these little touches that make Tetris DS stand out in the visual department when you really wouldn't expect it to.

Much like the graphics, Tetris DS also got a Nintendo-esqe upgrade. As I mentioned above, the game employs themes for the gameplay, but these themes aren't just visual. Yup, you get to hear classic Nintendo songs as well. That means (using the above example of the Super Mario Bros. standard Tetris mode) you'll hear those familiar overworld and underground stage tunes as the movie "plays". Not only that, but the game also uses the same audio effects too, so you'll almost swear you're playing your Nintendo Entertainment System once again. Kudos to Nintendo for upgrading a classic puzzler with retro flair and carrying through to every aspect of the game.

You really can't mess up the controls of...scratch that, I've played plenty of Tetris-clones with crappy controls. Okay, so in this case Nintendo got it right, with all the options you need to play Tetris the way you like it (i.e. turn shadows on and off, quick drops and swappable pieces are all here). You can use the stylus in certain modes (Touch and Puzzle) with some success, but it really just feels like a tacked on gimmick rather than a necessary means to play the game. No matter how you look at it though, Tetris DS plays great so even gimmicky, it's still good times.

Since I've pretty much covered the visual design of the game when I discussed the graphics, I'll instead break down the different play modes. Standard lets you play a traditional game of Tetris, with or without Mario Kart-esqe items. Puzzle is an interesting concept in which you are given a field with gaps and you have three pieces you must use to completely remove all lines from the screen. Mission gives you a task that you have to complete before time runs out. Push plays somewhat like a sumo wrestling match in which you and an opponent via to push the central rows of blocks past a point of no return. Touch gives you a tower of pieces that you have to manipulate from the bottom to remove. Catch gives you a central piece that you must catch other pieces that you pass and form a large square that will detonate and take out any objects and other pieces within the radius of the explosion. Each of these modes have variations (such as online modes, time trials, etc.) which greatly increases the playback of what would otherwise be a simple (yet addictive) puzzle game.

Not really a lot to unlock here (which is kind of a disappointment), but still something pretty cool nonetheless. For every so many levels you clear in regular Tetris, you'll unlock a new song. Many of these songs are remixed themes of classic Nintendo games (like Donkey Kong, Balloon Fight, Super Mario Bros., etc.) but one of the songs is none other than the original Tetris theme from the first Gameboy game! That may not seem like much to some of you, but to me it was about the greatest thing Nintendo could have put in the updated DS version as a tribute to their success with the Tetris franchise.

If you love Tetris and you love Nintendo, then this game is for you. Purchase it without haste, for the multiplayer Wi-Fi gameplay alone is worth the admission price; The added play modes, while somewhat gimmicky, are a nice diversion, and the Nintendo-themed window- dressings are just icing on an already sweet cake. Maybe I'm too old-school, but for my money Tetris is still the best puzzle game around.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/12/09

Game Release: Tetris DS (US, 03/20/06)

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