Chris Sell
24 Apr, 2006

Tetris DS Review

DS Review | The game that launched the Game Boy makes a long awaited return.
Tetris first became popular way back over 15 years ago on the original Game Boy, and few would argue that handheld gaming wouldn’t be anywhere near as big as it is today had Tetris not existed. So it comes as no surprise that, on Nintendo’s newest handheld, it makes a long awaited return.

For the three people in the world who don’t know what Tetris is all about, the idea is simple. Different shaped blocks, know as tetriminos, fall down a screen. It’s then your job to put all the pieces together to complete horizontal lines across the screen. When a line is completed it’s then removed from the field of play and so the cycle continues. Tetris as a game has evolved somewhat over the years and Tetris DS is no different in that respect. Those who played The New Tetris on the N64 for example will remember a few changes it had over the Game Boy incarnation. Firstly was the ability to keep a tetrimino in reserve using the shoulder button. That returns here too as by simply tapping L or R you will switch your current block so you can save it for later. Another change has been made to the way upcoming blocks are shown. Originally you were only shown the very next block that would appear, the N64 game showed you two while with this DS version you are actually shown the next six pieces. The New Tetris also brought about two minor additions. There was the ghost piece, a handy outline that shows instantly where your block will land. That’s in here, albeit with an option to turn it off, as is the ability to lay blocks instantly by pressing up on the D pad.

While it would have been easy just throw Tetris on to the DS on its own, Nintendo have included 6 different modes to play around with, each with their own background decals and theme. As well as the standard Tetris we all know and love, there are a few variations to play. ‘Catch’ mode, a Metroid themed game, has you rotating a single block in the centre of the screen with the intention of catching falling tetriminos and create a 4x4 or larger block that you can then detonate for points. The Yoshi’s Cookie themed ‘Puzzle’ requires a little more thinking. With a limited amount of pieces you must eliminate all remaining blocks. ‘Mission’ mode, set in the Zelda universe, is basically Tetris with mission objectives. On the top screen you’re given a task like clearing 3 lines at once with an L shaped piece or completing a line without being able to spin. ‘Touch’ mode is arguably the most unique of all as you move blocks on the bottom screen by literally dragging them left or right and spinning them with the stylus. Gravity will pull down pieces when there is space available as you find the gaps to make lines. But the best mode of all has to be the Donkey Kong themed ‘Push’. Here you play a versus game over both screens at the same time. As your pieces fall down, your opponent’s are moving up the screen. As you clear lines the action moves closer and closer to the deadly fire below. End up in the fire and it is game over.

Multiplayer Tetris DS is superb.

The new modes have mixed success. ’Mission and ‘Puzzle’ retain the main principles of what make Tetris so good and offer an enjoyable distraction as a result. ‘Catch’ and ‘Touch’ on the other hand stray a little too far from the Tetris mould and while it’s nice to see some genuinely new ideas, neither of them would be good enough to stand as their own game. ‘Push’ mode however certainly would be. Obviously Nintendo thought so too as it joins the Standard mode for online play. Connect Tetris DS via wi-fi and you’re presented with three options. Along with ‘Push’ mode, the first is for normal Tetris where two people go head to head in a battle for survival. It plays exactly how it normally does except lines that you manage to clear will be dumped on your opponents screen. The second mode offers play for 4 players, along with the use of items. These items appear as ‘?’ blocks on the screen, once you clear them you then get an item at random. These items, activated with the X button, range from red shells that shave off any blocks at the bottom of your screen, to Invincibility Stars that give you nothing but the long blocks for a few seconds. There are also items that have a negative effect on things. Some temporarily disable your ability to spin blocks while others will speed up the game dramatically for a short while.

It all works superbly well and is one of the most addictive online experiences so far on the DS. Menus are clear and simple and matches are easy to set up. Friends are even handled better than ever before too as you are notified in the menu if you have any friends online waiting to play. The only real complaint to be had is during 4 player games, as when someone quits the game ends. Thankfully, quitters are far few and further between than on the likes of Mario Kart so it’s not much of a problem, but it can be annoying. Local wi-fi shares all the same modes and online, plus the addition of ‘Mission’ mode too as well as allowing up to 10 players from the one cart. Although few of us will ever find 9 other people with a DS within the same room, the fact the option is there for it is pleasing.

The new Touch and Catch modes offer something new.

In terms of presentation the game oozes Nintendo from start to finish with all kind of familiar sprites and backgrounds from their past games. The big three of Mario, Zelda and Metroid are all there complete with many classic NES sprites from each of the games as are some lesser known titles like Balloon Trip and Yoshi’s Cookie. There is lots of music in here too. A remixed version of the unforgettable Super Mario Bros theme is used throughout the game, along with Zelda and Metroid tunes to accompany their respective modes. Throw in the Ice Climbers melody and the original Donkey Kong arcade music and you’ve got one hell of a soundtrack. There’s even the classic GB Tetris music hidden away somewhere too.

In summary, what we have here is a game that should make any Tetris fan a happy one. Those looking for the pure experience the original GB game offered might be disappointed as there are minor changes. As well as the block switching button and the fact the game shows you the next 6 coming pieces there’s also a change been made in relation to spinning the blocks. Whereas before a block would stop moving as soon as it landed on top of another, in Tetris DS you can keep a block spinning. It’s not a game breaker like in other recent Tetris games where you could float and even levitate blocks, but it’s a change some may not like. As for the other changes there’s a good case for both. Although the block switching/showing takes away the unpredictability and fear of making a mistake, something behind the reason that Tetris is as good as it is, it does improve the scope for more tactical play so the changes do have an overall positive effect on things.

Overall, Tetris DS is a wonderful package. It’s got plenty of modes and a superb online/multiplayer setup, and is all nicely coated with a vast selection of memorable Nintendo visuals and melodies. Tetris purists may not welcome the new changes, but they only really serve to make the game different, not necessarily worse.
The Score
Pretty much all you could hope for in a Tetris game. Puzzle game fans or those looking for a new online game need look no further.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 years ago
Another must buy for the DS - what a great system it is!

Great review - thanks!
7 years ago
Inifinit Spin does not improve the scope for more tactical play. In fact, it does the oppositie. Sure, it does not affect multiplayer a much, but it does ruin the classic experiece of single player (especially in high levels)
7 years ago
Am I right to assume that Meteos is better value for money for those who don't have access to wi-fi?
7 years ago
Yeah, I would recommend Meteos before Tetris based solely on Single player. There’s more to do, more to unlock and it’s a fresh experience. Check out our own Meteos review, I’m pretty sure I did that one too.
7 years ago
Infinite Spin and Swap Bin (or whatever it's called), have broken the classic. I just got to Lv.57, that's over 570 lines (why doesn't it record the number of lines?)! Still pretty enjoyable, regardless of the game breaking additions. I did worry about the shadow, having read previews and stuff. But it really makes no difference after about 50 lines.

I'd recommend Lumines over this, but I hear good things about Meteos as well. I just don't like the idea of using the stylus in a puzzle game (of the falling block variety).
7 years ago
I havent even played the ds version but this infinite spin does sound like a game breaker to me.What a shame.......a simple on/off option in the options screen could have saved it.Looks good otherwise.Tsk.
7 years ago
^ That's the main thing putting me of buying it (and also the excessive price tag. $70 is a joke)
7 years ago
Chris Sell, you've sold me buddy. GG icon_biggrin.gif
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