A version of the classic game Tetris has been released for the Nintendo DS, and of course I was first in line on
release day to pick up my copy. If you are reading this, it would be hard to believe that you haven't heard of
this timeless puzzle game where you are tasked to fill a well with tetriminos (four block pieces) to clear lines.
So I'll skip the explanation of this game mechanics and focus on what makes this version different.
The original "marathon" version of the game is included where the speed of the falling blocks increases for every
ten lines you clear. One controversial difference between this version and the original is the ability to
infintely spin a piece. Once a piece hits the bottom of the well, it doesn't stick right away. Instead, as long as
you keep tapping the spin button, the piece will stay in play. This allows you to slide it around and spin nearly
infinitely while looking for a place to put it. Many have argued that this has destroyed the fundamental challange
of the game, and I tend to agree. After just three days with the game I had successfully cleared 200 lines, which
is the end of the game. I remember playing Tetris on the original Nintendo and struggling to get half that far.
You can also "pause" a piece by placing it in your hold slot. That piece will be held until you swap it later for
the active piece. This makes it easy to stow a long piece if you get one before you are ready to complete a tetris.
One kind of cute feature is that, as you play the single player marathon version of Tetris on the bottom screen of
the DS, classic NES games are played in the top screen. For each line you clear, Mario gets a little farther in
Super Mario Brothers. I noticed Metroid, Excite Bike, Super Mario Brothers 1, 2, and 3, as well as a classic
Tetris theme on my way through. These are cute, but quickly forgotten as you concentrate on the tetris well.
Aside from the tried and true marathon version, there are now also push, catch, versus, touch, puzzle, and mission
styles of play. In push your computer opponent is at the bottom of the bottom screen, and you are at the top of
the top screen. Pieces fall from both the top and bottom towards the middle. As you clear lines, the blob of
pieces in the middle moves closer to your opponents side. The first to "push" the blob over the opponents edge
wins. In catch mode you control a large blob of pieces at the bottom of the well. Rather than spinning the pieces
as they fall, you spin the blob of collected pieces. If a 4x4 solid square of pieces is formed, they will clear
all pieces above, below, and to the sides of the square. This is a truly bizarre form of the game. The touch
version gives you a tetris well that is already filled with pieces. At the top is a balloon. You can slide and
spin the pieces using the stylus, and must use the pieces to form lines. As you form lines, they clear and the
balloon gets closer to the ground. You win when it reaches the ground. In puzzle, you are given only a few pieces
to drop and must clear the entire screen. You can drop them in any order and position, but must clear all lines.
In mission mode you are challenged to complete an exercise in order to reach the next mission within a time limit.
Challenges in mission mode include clearing two lines with a 'Z' piece, or clearing three lines with an 'L'.
In addition to these new game modes, Tetris DS allows for wireless group play. If you are in a room with
other Tetris DS players, up to ten players can compete head to head. Clearing lines sends them to your opponents
wells. If you don't know any Tetris DS players, you can also get online and face up to four other players in
group play, or go one on one.
In my opinion, there isn't a lot that really sets this game apart from other versions of tetris. If you have an
original gameboy and an original tetris cartridge that you keep in the bathroom or car for long trips, there
really isn't much reason to upgrade. For me, the online play was the reason to get this new version. I like being
able to play a pickup game against other folks around the world. The additional play modes are interesting, but
not reason enough for me to get this game. I would recommend Tetris DS to anyone who doesn't have a version of
Tetris to play now, but if you already have it and aren't interested in online play, this probably isn't the
version for you.