Monday, May 01, 2006


Nintendo, for Nintendo DS,
rated E for Everyone, $34.99.

How do you improve upon something like "Tetris"?

I mean, it’s a classic game that’s managed to stay around in the public consciousness for so long because it’s so elegantly simple and dangerously addictive.

I have regret-filled memories of staying up late in college, not partying, but desperately trying to stack blocks on my roommate’s Mac Classic, wondering where the hell that one vertical piece I needed was.

Why mess with perfection?

Such moral quandaries didn’t keep the folks at Nintendo from trying to muck about with the formula, and it’s a good thing they did, as "Tetris DS," the latest variation on the timeless title, actually manages to offer a pleasant new spin or two on the basic formula.

Like "Pac-Man," "Tetris" should be familiar to anyone who hasn’t been in a coma over the past 10 years, but just to recap: In the game, blocks of different shapes fall from above. Your job is to get rid of them by stacking them to form horizontal lines, which then dissolve the blocks away. The tricky part comes when the game speeds up and blocks start falling faster and faster.

In addition to the traditional "standard" mode, "Tetris DS" throws in a bunch of other variations, the most interesting being "Touch," which makes clever use of the DS’ touch screen.

Here the blocks are arranged in a teetering, tower-like fashion. Using the DS’ stylus, you can slide and rotate the blocks to form lines and clear them away from the bottom up.

It’s a rather inspired take on the game and offers the same sort of addictive game play that the original "Tetris" did. It wasn’t long before I found myself hunched over my DS, clock ticking away the hours, promising myself, "just one more game."

The most interesting feature of "Tetris DS" is its multiplayer mode.

Here, you can compete against 10 other DS owners from either the same room or across the Internet via the console’s wireless hookup.

The ability to take what has previously been a solitary game and turn it into a competitive forum also manages to keep the game feeling fresh, regardless of how many other hours you’ve spent in the past with "Tetris."

There are several other modes — Catch, Push, Puzzle and Mission to name a few — but Touch and multiplayer are the central reasons to pick up the game. Tetris fans unsure about how Nintendo’s new coat of paint would look on the game need not fear. It really goes with the decor.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006


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