The granddaddy of all puzzle games comes to the Nintendo DS in full force.
Face it. If you’re a gamer, then at some point in life you have played (and most likely enjoyed) one form of Tetris or another. Nearly every system made since the game’s inception has some gotten some Tetris lovin’, and now it’s the DS’s turn.
Tetris DS gives players plenty of modes from which to choose, along with several sub-modes. There’s Standard, Push, Touch, Puzzle, Mission, and Catch. Each mode’s theme is based on a specific Nintendo series, such as Mario for Standard and Donkey Kong for Push. These modes feature backgrounds and music from those series. Each of the game modes are fairly simple and quick to get started, which makes it that much easier to game on the go.
There are not a whole lot of options, unfortunately. The two options here don’t impact gameplay too much, but for someone who has never seen them before (like me), it’s good to at least know what they do and that they can be turned off. There’s Hard Drop and Ghost Piece, and both options are on by default. Hard Drop means that, when you’re playing, you can automatically make a game piece fall by pressing up on the d-pad. With Ghost Piece turned on, you can see where each individual Tetrimino (block) will drop before you place it.
Taking a look at the regular game modes, Standard is where to head if you want to play some of the more classic Tetris modes. Standard has three sub-modes: Marathon, Line Clear, and Vs. CPU. Marathon is basic Tetris. Start on the first level and rotate (A for clockwise, B for counter-clockwise) the Tetriminos to create horizontal lines to clear them away. You’ll reach a new level (which drops the pieces down slightly faster) every time you clear ten lines.
While you’re playing in this mode, you’ll hear slightly redone Mario songs and the background will be that of a level in the playing field. On the top screen a computer-controlled Mario will be going through a level as you go through lines. It’s a nice little touch that really doesn’t add anything to the game, but it’s fun to look up and see occasionally.
In Line Clear, select the level and the line height (1-5, with each level representing two lines of Tetriminos) and then have at it. The point of this mode is to rack up as many points as possible before you clear twenty five lines. Vs. CPU is exactly like the online 2 player mode (which I’ll get to in a moment), with the obvious exception being that you’re playing against the computer (with a variable difficulty), rather than an actual person. Clearing two or more lines at once will send lines to your opponent’s side of the playing field. Whoever reaches the top of the field first loses. One thing to note is the fact that each Tetrimino can be rotated infinitely before being dropped, which can mean bad things for your opponents. I don’t think this gameplay tactic hinders the game as much as some people would have you believe, because most of the time you still have to at least get the piece in the correct general area, or sometimes your piece will get stuck and it can’t be moved to the other side of the field.
In the Metroid-themed Catch mode, you’re in control of a “core", which consists simply of a single block. Tetriminos will fall from the screen above onto the bottom screen. Your job is to catch the Tetriminos onto the core. You can’t rotate the falling Tetriminos; you can only move the core and attempt to latch on to them. Create at least a 4x4 area of Tetriminos, and the core will start counting down before it explodes. Catch on more lines before the core explodes for more points, or if you’re sure you want to go ahead and explode the core, you can just press the X button.
The Legend of Zelda-based theme is used for Mission mode. Like regular games of Tetris, you get a playing field and Tetrimino pieces will fall. The difference here is that instead of just randomly clearing lines, you’re given specific tasks to do; tasks such as clearing two or more lines at once or using specific pieces to clear lines. The upper screen shows exactly what the mission wants you do. The bottom screen shows ten hearts in the lower right corner (like the ones used for Link), which act as a timer for each mission. When the hearts run out, the height of the playing field increases. Again, it’s game over if you reach the top of the field. Mission is the only mode besides Standard Vs. and Push to receive the multiplayer treatment.
Yoshi is the main star of Puzzle mode. As you might expect with the name of the mode, you’ll be given a set of lines with pieces missing and your job is to pick the correct Tetrimino in the right position to completely rid the field of blocks. Most of the time, you will be picking from two or three different Tetromino pieces. The only problem I have with this mode is the fact that it won’t even try the piece if it doesn’t fit at all. Basically, you could just go through this mode and continue to randomly pick pieces until all the blocks are cleared. There are times when you’ll pick a piece that can fit but doesn’t clear all of the blocks, but it’s more common than finding a piece that won’t fit at all and thus can’t be selected. There are at least two hundred missions in Puzzle mode, so it’ll take quite a while to complete them all, even for the best of us.
Touch mode is, in my humble opinion, the best new mode in Tetris DS. In this Balloon Fight-themed mode, blocks are stacked to the sky. Using the stylus, you must move pieces around to once again form horizontal lines. You win when the cage of balloons at the top of the stack hits the ground. In Levels 1-3 of this mode, Tetriminos can be rotated by tapping on them twice. In the two latter stages Tetriminos can’t be rotated at all, making things extremely difficult, yet interesting. It gives you a real sense of accomplishment when you finish those levels. Touch also has a Puzzle mode. Unlike the actual Puzzle mode, you don’t have to pick any Tetriminos. Instead, you’ll use your stylus to move the blocks already on the field to complete the puzzle.
Push is another new mode created for this iteration of Tetris. This mode is played on one giant playing field utilizing both screens. The point of this game is to literally push the field all the way to your opponent's side by clearing lines. So, if you're guarding the upper screen, then you'll want to continue to push the field to the very bottom. Clearing two or more lines will push the field even farther.
Although Touch is the best new single player mode, the multiplayer is what really shines through for this game. With multiplayer, you and up to nine other people can compete against each other in either Standard Vs. or Mission mode, all from just one copy of the game. Push can also be played using the local wireless, though it requires exactly two players. The online portion of the game contains not only the Standard Vs. mode along with Push, but it also features a four-player Standard game with items. If you clear a "?" box, you’ll get one of those six items. Thankfully, none of the items have an absolute advantage over another, like the blue shell in Mario Kart DS. However, none of the items are inherently weak, either.
Tetris DS has all the makings of a great game. It’s simple enough that anyone can pick it up and get a game going by himself within seconds, yet it’s sophisticated enough that all of your friends can join in on the fun. Being able to challenge friends or random strangers from across the world only adds to the long lasting nature of the game. Simply put, it’s one of the best DS games to date.