When I see a game with "party" in its title jogging down my line of games to review, my first instinct is to usually turn and run and hide out with some kind of sleeper Japanese game until the party game gets lost and gives up. But for Tetris Party Deluxe DS, I suggest you run toward it like one of those hyper-romantic, slow-motion, running down the beach scenes. It's that well-rounded and entertaining.
While Tetris Party has the classic version of Tetris, the real pull of this game is its variations of Tetris. Each mode has a diminutive learning curve and demand constant improvement—whether it’s completing a challenge in a faster time or finishing its Field Climber or Shadow modes flawlessly. If you're a perfectionist or a gamer who has a passion for actually getting better at puzzle games, this game will have a lot of replay value.
There are a handful of things I absolutely loved about this game. First, the online multiplayer and DS download play makes finding opponents to play against a snap, and the points-based ranking system compares you with players worldwide. It's unfortunate that only a classic Tetris mode is offered for online multiplayer, with none of the fun Party modes to be had. However, the online system is snappy, easy to use and has groovy lounge music playing while you wait to be connected to another player.
In classic, single-player Tetris mode, the Tetriminos (technical term for Tetris pieces) have a silhouette at the bottom of the puzzle that clearly maps where and how it will fall. It's a simple but brilliant touch that helps prevent mistakenly placing your Tetriminos one row column over from where you were targeting…BP-style.
It's surprising how fun the Tetris variations are. Bombliss mode, where you aim to detonate the remainder of your puzzle by lining up and exploding bombs that are embedded in Tetriminos, quickly became a favorite of mine. Other interesting variations include Stage Racer, where you race a Tetrimino down a scrolling maze made from other Tetris blocks, and Field Climber, where you build a staircase to the top of your screen for a miniature climber who can only climb one block at a time.
One of the only drawbacks to Tetris Party is that it's not the most attractive-looking puzzle game out there (see Lumines). But otherwise great gameplay helps gloss over the bizarre color schemes, blocky interface and random cartoony avatar icons. The music and sound are solid, and the game offers a handful of MIDI-sounding tracks that go beyond the traditional Tetris tune.
Tetris Party is a really fun twist on a classic game. The bottom-line is that if you like traditional Tetris, then you'll like, maybe even love, Tetris Party Deluxe. It might not be the must-have game of the year, but it's a solid addition to any games collection, especially if you're a puzzler freak like me.