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Tetris DS Package Art

Tetris DS

Since its debut in the 80s, Tetris has captured the minds of gamers and grandmas alike with its simple concept and endless playability. Over a few generations, many developers have attempted to improve upon gaming's seminal puzzler with limited instances of success. The DS is the home of the latest Tetris iteration, and it bears a distinct Nintendo flavoring.


Due to the nature of Tetris gameplay, graphical whizz-bang isn't necessary. Anyone who's played long enough knows that visuals soon cease to exist and the only thing left are the blocks and the players, locked in a futile and hopeless struggle against the icy hand of Game Over. Or something to that effect. Tetris DS does the best it can with a heavy dose of Nintendostalgia. The themes for each mode mostly consist of window dressing that does little more than make for a pretty border to your central game. It's a neat addition for Nintendophiles, but the rare albino DS Owners Who Donít Like Nintendo won't be too thrilled to learn that the themes can't be turned off.


Gamers are also treated (or subjected) to sound effects and remixes of their (least?) favorite tunes from The Big Nís games of yesteryear. The tracks range from bearable to good to great, though they arenít interchangeable; in fact, players can't choose the music they listen to (other than a lame sound test in the options menu). This poses a problem, but nothing that can't be resolved by simply listening to preferred music from another source, as sound isn't crucial to gameplay.


Tetris is a hard game to break, but that hasn't stopped numerous developers from doing so. Nintendo wisely included a Standard mode, a bare-bones Tetris similar in gameplay to the NES and Game Boy. The DS version includes some traits that the series has more or less adopted over the years. A ghost image of the current Tetrimino in play appears at the spot below where it would land if it were to keep falling without change; players can choose to quickly place the piece in that spot by simply hitting up on the D-pad. Both of these options can be turned off in the menu, but some additions cannot. For instance, the Hold box, which stores that crucial piece (read: the long one) until called upon later, is not optional.

Also unfortunate is the implementation of infinite rotation, which lets players rotate the pieces constantly once they hit the surface--this feature is also without an off switch. While keeping a piece in play as long as one likes certainly hurts the high-score contests in single player mode, any miscreants trying to take advantage of this in the fast-paced multiplayer will find that such play is only beneficial for masochistic losers.

Five other modes are bundled in with Tetris DS, most of which are creative and involving enough to merit multiple plays. The Donkey Kong-themed Push mode pits two players against each other on the same field, each taking one end as they attempt to push the other downwards by clearing lines. Set in Hyrule, Mission mode asks gamers to complete simple tasks within a time limit, such as clearing multiple lines at once or clearing a line with a certain block. Those who actually remember Yoshi's Cookie will be treated to a brain-busting Puzzle mode that challenges players to clear the screen with certain numbers and types of blocks. Touch mode mines the old Balloon Fight crew to accompany gamers as they move Tetriminos--with the stylus, of course--that are already on the ground. The unique Catch mode deviates the most from the Tetris formula, featuring a scrolling block the players must control and rotate to latch onto passing Tetriminos, which form squares in order to blow up Metroids. If for some reason that sounds bewildering, it should be made clear with the nifty visual tutorials included for each mode.

Each mode has something that makes it worth a look, with different play styles that cater to varying tastes. Some definitely seem like they would be aquired tastes (Catch), while others should last you quite a long time (Puzzle mode features over 200 levels). Standard mode will probably turn off a few finicky purists, but casual gamers shouldn't find anything wrong with it. It seems like a wasted opportunity, however, that only one mode uses the DS's unique capabilities.


Tetriholics have been playing against each other via programs like TetriNet for quite some time, but it's never been available on a handheld until now. The local play boasts an impressive ten players with a single cartridge, which is quite a feat. Gamers can come together to play Standard, Mission or Push, and may even split into teams to battle it out. Items are at hand (and optional) as well and may help you (unlimited straight pieces!) or hinder your opponents (no more rotating!). It may be for naught for some players, however, as many DS owners might have a problem finding nine others with systems, let alone nine friends. As for online play, the dastardly Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection's Friend Codes have struck again with their unwieldy and inconvenient "features." Still, even with Mission mode MIA, the core gameplay of online Tetris is incredibly fun and so addictive that it often leads to bouts of UMS, or Uno Mas Syndrome.


Tetris DS will definitely please those looking for an enjoyable puzzle experience in familiar territory. The many modes add a great deal of variety and replayability, and the local/online play, however flawed, are actually quite fun once things get going; the latter could also be said for Mario Kart DS. Online play is undoubtedly a huge draw for those teetering on the fence concerning whether to buy this game, and the gameplay does not disappoint, though the set-up still reeks of Nintendo's stubborn inexperience. Purists may be upset that so many little things have changed their game of Tetris that they held so dear; but those whiny enough to nitpick a great new version of a classic puzzle game would probably be better off whipping out their cabbage-green Game Boys anyhow. In the end, it's still Tetris, and the enjoyment to be had with the DS version will ultimately boil down to the amount of fondess for the original game. Of course, with that logic, it's recommended for anyone with a pulse.

final score 8.5/10

Staff Avatar Tristan Cooper
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"Get out the umbrellas..."

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