Unnecessarily filled with variety.
Nintendo’s got the Tetris license back. Remember that awesome Tetris DS game? It was on store shelves for like three months, but Nintendo lost the license and was unable to print more copies. Tetris’ big return to Nintendo systems was with Hudson’s Tetris Party games for WiiWare, DSiWare, Wii, and DS. The Tetris Party games had multiple modes and encouraged multiple players. Tetris: Axis, the newest Tetris game for 3DS, does as well, and should probably be called Tetris Party 3D given its content. While Nintendo's picked up publishing rights in North America, development remained in Hudson's hands.
Of course, there are a wealth of “new” modes. One such mode, Jigsaw, has you rotate puzzle pieces and stack them up to match the image on the bottom screen. Stage Racer Plus has you maneuvering a Tetrimino through a vertically-oriented maze at an increasing speed, rotating the block or using the “jump” mechanic to squirm through. The best new mode—Fit—is an interesting puzzle-based game in which you’re given a flat square of tiles with several blank spaces. You must use the Tetriminos you’re given to fill in the holes. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious where certain blocks go, but at other times it’s quite difficult. This mode also makes the best use of the system’s stereoscopic 3D, as you’re looking down at the tiles and dropping blocks into the blank spaces. Tetris: Axis even tosses in two AR modes that use the item block AR card included with the system. Neither one is particularly riveting, especially since there are non-AR versions of those games that don’t make you get up off the couch (one of them has you rotating around the AR card—no thanks!).
Almost none of the alternate modes are worth writing home about, unfortunately. You’ll spend the majority of your time playing classic Marathon (Endless) mode and the new, faster-paced Fever mode, in which you work to get a majority of points in the span of a minute, with a catch: the game field is narrower than usual, and power-ups come into play. You can rack up some pretty sick combos, and I found Fever mode to be pretty addictive. Another addictive mode is Bombliss Plus, which involves bomb blocks and combos. But again, nothing tops Marathon.
Multiplayer was a wash. My 3DS wouldn’t connect to people on my Friends List who also had the game (we could see each other in the lobby, but couldn’t connect), and when I went into a World Lobby, I was the only person present…every time. If I had a friend with a 3DS, we could do download play. If you’re starved for human opponents, Tetris: Axis does give you a nice Versus mode in which your opponents are Bomberman characters. You clear some lines, they get more blocks on their screen. There are also power-ups, not all of which are helpful, and almost all of which take you out of the game (tap the touch screen! Blow into the mic!).
So despite the presence of three or four interesting modes, I can't heartily recommend Tetris: Axis to any but the most rabid fans of Tetris. It's just one of those games that really is best played in its original, simple Marathon mode. I mean, think back: when you played Tetris on the Game Boy or NES, did you touch Mode B (where blocks appeared at the bottom of the screen at start) nearly as much as Marathon mode? Of course not—that's the mode that everybody loves. So when you give me jigsaw puzzles and ask me to rotate them around to match a picture on the bottom screen, it's just not going to be fulfilling. Overall, that's how Tetris: Axis feels: it's just too much crap piled on top of a few genuinely interesting modes to be worth your money.