Don?t Fall To Pieces

Tetris found its initial first home on the original GameBoy, but how well made is this remake of the classic puzzle title?

When Tetris was first bundled with the GameBoy many years ago, it instantly became a classic hit that swept the world and quite literally introduced the gaming masses to the puzzle game genre. In fact, in today?s world, it is hard not to find Tetris. This game has been ported to just about every game system that has ever been created and has even branched out to small settings like cell phones and palm pilots. However, the best home for Tetris is on a handheld system. Why? Because it is one of those games that is easy to pick up and play. You can play it for a quick five-minute burst when waiting for the bus, or you can play it for hours. The addictive quality of Tetris is only been match by a select few.

Tetris DS is a wonderful addition to the DS?s game library. Nintendo has managed to keep the same nostalgic feeling that players retained from years past while incorporating all new Tetris gameplay elements that will intrigue any puzzle fan.

Sporting a total of six game types, Tetris DS is one hefty puzzle game filled with all the line-making needs anyone could ever want. First, is the classic Standard Mode. This is the classic Tetris game mode that everyone has played. However, every mode and graphic element in Tetris DS has been given the royal Nintendo treatment. Instead of a blocky and plain interface, both screens carry a theme from a classic Nintendo game, increasing nostalgia. In Standard Mode, the bottom screen displays the Tetris gameplay field while the top screen will run the player through the levels of the first Super Mario Bros. game on NES. This mode has your basic Marathon mode, where the goal is to get as many lines as you can. Line Clear mode will have the player clearing a specific number of lines at a set difficulty level. And Vs. CPU mode can pit computer controlled A.I. characters against the player.

All the basic Tetris-isms are in this DS version. Pieces are moved with the D-pad while the face buttons rotate the pieces clockwise or counterclockwise. However, a single piece can be saved and stored for later use by tapping either shoulder button. Once a piece is in storage, it can swapped out for the current falling piece at anytime, increasing strategy. If “down” on the D-pad is held, the current falling piece will fall at a faster pace. But any piece can be instantly dropped if “up” is tapped. This would be somewhat inaccurate if the Ghost piece option wasn?t implemented. This Ghost option allows the player to see a ghosted image of where the currently falling piece will be placed at the bottom. However, these options can be turned off in the option menu if one so desires.

Brand new to the Tetris world is Catch Mode. Sporting a Metroid theme, the player controls a small set of default blocks. It is up to the player to “catch” falling pieces to make 4×4 blocks. Rotation of this huge of mass is performed by tapping the face buttons. Once this block has been formed, it explodes, killing any Metroids that are within proximity. However, if a piece or enemy drops passed the player, or runs into an enemy, damage is taken. The player can only take so much damage before it is Game Over. Catch Mode will force players to think about Tetris in a new way as you have to think about forming a 360 degree mass of blocks instead of forming single horizontal lines. Catch Mode will take a few minutes to fully understand it, but it is bound to be the new hit way to play Tetris. Plus, have the Metroid theme fits perfects for this type of Tetris mode.

Mission Mode supports the classic 8-bit Zelda theme. Instead of just clearing lines like in Standard Mode, Mission Mode forces the player to clear lines in a certain way. For example, you must clear two lines by using a “Z” shaped piece, or clear five lines. The trick, however, is that the player has a time limit. If the given task is completed, the player is given a new one and several lines on the stack will automatically disappear. On the other hand, if you fail to fulfill the task, more lines will pile up. This set amount of time is measured in Hearts, just like Link?s health bar in Zelda on NES. Very clever! This Mission Mode can also be played in a time trial mode. Instead of just completing tasks until you lose, the game gives the player 10 tasks that increase in difficulty as you progress. In all honesty, this mode will frustrate players? but you will never has so much fun being frustrated. This mode gives new life to Tetris strategy and any fan will fully enjoy this mode.

Breaking from the faster paced action that is Tetris is Puzzle Mode. Here, the player is given 200 puzzles to solve. The board is preset with a pre-existing stack of pieces. The player is only given certain playing pieces to eliminate the entire stack. This mode maintains a Yoshi Cookie theme with the factory setting of the corresponding Game and Watch Gallery game. Completing all of the 200 puzzles will definitely take a good chunk of time as some can be quite challenging. This mode is the best way to play a more thinking man?s form of Tetris.

Touch Mode, unique to the DS?s hardware, has a Balloon Fight theme. Using only the stylus, the player must eliminate an entire tower of preset pieces. Instead of having pieces fall from the top of the screen, pieces can be slid and rotated by tapping and dragging the stylus. This mode somewhat resembles Wario?s Woods. Rotating pieces with the stylus, unfortunately, is kind of strange but the developers did the best they could with what they had. Rotating pieces in done by double tapping each piece in the direction you want to rotate it. It takes some time getting used to, but once acquired, the play control fits. Once this huge tower of pieces crumbles to nothing, a cage of balloons will be released. The verticalness of this game suits the theme of Balloon Fight very well. Another addition to Touch Mode is its Puzzle Mode. Here, the player must clear a set stack of pieces by only sliding pieces (you cannot rotate). This mode can prove to be very difficult but will provide hours of gameplay.

The final type of mode is Push Mode. This new mode plays like a game of tug-o-war placed on the 50-yard line of a football field. One player assumes control of one screen while your opponent uses the other. Starting with only a small cube of blocks in the middle, each player must build up a stack, then clear it. This “pushes” the rest of the stack to your opponent?s screen. Because there is no set barrier, the player will have to reconsider how to place each piece, knowing that it is possible that they can be used against yourself. This mode is highly competitive and offers a new way two players can dual it out.

Having all these new gameplay modes will entertain the solo player for hours upon hours, but fans know the true and best way to play Tetris is against your buddies. Nintendo knew this so they have created Tetris DS with loads of multiplayer options. First, up to 10 players can play off of one game card through download play. Playing against 9 other players is such a rush for any Tetris fan. The fact that you can compete without even owning the game is a huge selling point. However, if every player manages to have his or her own game card, more options are available.

When playing any multiplayer mode, you will always play through the bottom screen while all your opponent?s screens are displayed on your top screen. This is a great way to spy on players who you think might be building up for that four-line Tetris attack. Even if you are playing against 9 other players, everyone?s screen will squeeze to fit on the top screen.

Using Nintendo Wifi Connection, Tetris DS is a fully online game. Playing online limits the player to only three gameplay choices, however. Head to Head, 4-player battle, and Push Mode are available on WiFi. Each mode has its own perks though. Head to Head is a true battle for any Tetris fan. You won?t realize how much you suck until you play online. What makes this game so competitive is the stat-tracking system. Instead of being given a rank (like level 8, level 22, etc) the player starts will 5,000 points. If you win a match, you gain points. If you lose, you lose points. The lower your score, the worse you are. This allows the matchmaking to somewhat help match players up against your skill level. All single player stats are kept as well and can be viewed from the options menu.

4-player online mode is just like Head-to-Head except there are more players and items. Occasionally, one block will light up with a “?” just like the blocks in Mario Kart or Mario 1 on NES. If a line is cleared with this block in it, an item is granted to the player. Selecting these items are random, just like how it scrolls through in any Mario Kart game. Some items hurt the other players, like the lightning bolt that doesn?t allow the player rotate pieces for a short amount of time, while some items help, like the red shell that clears the bottom two rows on your screen. Each item supports the Mario Kart motif but fits quite nicely in the Tetris gameplay.

This game not only has killer gameplay, but the presentation quality is sky high. However, there are two small gripes that are can bother die-hard Tetris players. First, the player can always see six pieces in advance. While this is a great way to plan ahead, there should have been an option to turn this off, or at least, down. Purists might find this to bring an unfair advantage.

Second, the art of “sliding” pieces into hard to reach spots can be taken advance of through the constant rotation of pieces. The player can literally rotate a single piece for a very long time simply by mashing the rotate button when a piece hits the bottom of the screen. This cheap way to play can definitely be taken advantage of in multiplayer mode. “Sliding” is a feature that should be in Tetris, just not to this extent.

Unfortunately, Tetris was never a game to be based around graphics. It is all about the gameplay. Nintendo, however, has given this game a major face-lift by throwing in Nintendo characters and themes everywhere. Seeing this 2-D sprites run around in their classic gameplay world will bring back many memories. But who would have thought that Tetris would allow you to remember so much about Nintendo?s past. The music department has also gone through a transformation. Not only have the classic Tetris themes been re-mixed, but also many classic Nintendo tunes have also been re-vamped to fit the mood of the gameplay. Listen as the music speeds up when you get close to the top. It is enough to make anyone nervous by increasing pressure.

Tetris DS will not only send players down a trip on memory lane, it will also provide tons of gameplay hours. The new modes combined with intense multiplayer options (single card, multi card, and WiFi) will literally have any fan foaming at the mouth. Tetris plays best on a handheld and Nintendo has raised the bar incredibly high by providing gamers with one of the best puzzle games ever created. Tetris DS is another reason to purchase a DS system. Go buy this game right now!

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