Perhaps it was only a matter of time before Nintendo called Tetris’s number for the DS — Mario and Samus have already graced the platform, and a new Zelda adventure was just announced — but this isn’t just another rote adaptation of the venerable Russian puzzle. The standard mode is there, all right, in which you rotate endless falling blocks in an attempt to align and eliminate them (the blocks are called “Tetriminos”; did you know that?). There are a few user-friendly features in this, the latest incarnation, like a ghost image of your piece showing where it’ll land on the bottom of the screen and a sparkly animation overlay that indicates when your piece is set in place, but otherwise it’s not much changed from the Game Boy version that brought Tetris to a mass audience. Then again, it doesn’t need to be.
This time around, Nintendo has whipped up five new ways to Tetris. As is often the case in these situations, the results are mixed. “Mission” mode plays just like vanilla Tetris, except that you have to accomplish certain goals, like clearing two lines with a particular piece, or else you’ll be punished with extra lines. “Puzzle” presents a static screen that you must clear completely using only a couple of specific Tetriminos. “Push” is a modification of regular battle mode, a reverse tug-of-war in which you attempt to shove your opponent into a pit of fire. All are welcome diversions.
One new mode is specifically designed for the stylus. Aptly named “Touch,” it’s an inversion of the classic formula. To start, all of the blocks are stacked one on top of another; you clear them by sliding around the Tetriminos underneath. The stylus interface works well enough, although double-tapping to rotate pieces isn’t always as easy as it should be. It’s still better than the lone remaining single-player mode, “Catch,” which is Tetris DS’s one failure. Sort of a free-floating Katamari Damacy gone wrong, Catch has you accruing gigantic masses of blocks, which occasionally explode to kill Metroids. It doesn’t fit with the Tetris vibe, and it doesn’t work.
The real draw, of course, is the multiplayer. That does work. Featuring wi-fi support and local multiplayer for up to 10 people with a single cartridge, Tetris DS instantly becomes the definitive party version. Besides standard multiplayer, you can also compete in Mission mode (go for the highest score) and Push mode (make your opponent burn like an oily rag). We’ve come far since the days of tethering together two Game Boys for a precious few minutes of battle.