Tetris Party Live
DSiWare | Tetris Online, Inc. / Hudson Soft | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (online versus) | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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27th November 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
Tetris has been around for decades, and as such, the elements that have made Tetris such a legacy have been virtually unchanged. The idea is to use different-shaped blocks to clear lines without having those same blocks reach the top of the playing field. If you're a bit rusty on the different moves you can perform, the in-game Tutorial can be helpful for that purpose, along with some good ol' experimentation.
The controls work well enough that after some time, you'll be able to play without even thinking about what each button does. Using Left and Right on the +Control Pad, you can move Tetrimonos along the playing field, and rotate them using the B or A Button. By holding Down, you can do what's called a "Soft Drop" where the piece will fall at a slightly-faster pace. This is perfect for situations where you need to perform a last-minute spin to close a hole in your stack of blocks. Contrast this with a "Hard Drop" where pressing the Up button will instantly force the block straight down. If you can't find a good place for something to fit, or if you'd rather save the "I" Block for later, you can tap the L or R shoulder button to save it for later.
When engaging in a Vs. Battle, you'll notice that items are added into the mix to help keep things interesting (that is, if you want them on). Some of the falling shapes will have one block with a rainbow square. If you clear a line with this block on it, you'll get a random item put into your Items area off to the side - a palette that can hold up to 3 items at once. Pressing the Y Button will activate whatever item is at the top of this area, which can produce either offensive or defensive effects. For example, one item will wipe out a whole series of lines from the bottom of your playing field, while another can create a dense fog on an opponent's screen. With respect to the latter item, you can actually blow into your DSi's microphone to try to clear it away, which works much better than shaking the controller in the WiiWare version.
Tetris Party Live has a decent layout going for it. It's all presented in a very user-friendly manner, even if it's not too impressive visually. Players have the ability to change the background image and music which is nice to see. I especially appreciated being able to change the BGM since I always find the default Tetris song very annoying. You can also brand your profile with an avatar of a simple cartoon, or even a standard Bomberman.
Trimming down the extra modes, Tetris Party Live leaves players with four different modes of play. For the single-player, you can engage in a Marathon session where you can see how quickly you can clear 150 lines, or with Endless set to ON, you can see how many levels you can survive. If you just want a quick game, then you can just select the 'Play Tetris!' option from the title screen. In CPU Battle, you can challenge an AI opponent in a battle of wits and reflexes. You can set the computer's skill level anywhere from 1 to 5, with 5 being a master. It's a nice way of testing your skills before you go online, and for verifying where you're at as you aim to gradually improve your skills.
Once you're feeling confident, you can select the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection option to put your skills in online matches. You can opt to face opponents from around the world or from specific regions, or just battle a registered friend. Not only do you have the ability to play standard Tetris battles, but Tetris Party Live also allows you to play Duel Spaces online. This mode appeared in the WiiWare release but it was only for a local environment, so seeing it included once again but for online play is just great.
When playing Vs. Battle, you can play with up to 3 other players, while Duel Spaces is only a two-person affair. The lobby system has a timer of 60 seconds, meaning that you won't have to wait extra long for people to confirm that they would like to start the match. Plus, you always have the ability to practice beforehand if you need to kill some time.
While you're engaged in a battle, the top screen is used to view the playing field of your opponents, giving you a general idea of how everyone is doing. When there's more than one other person participating, a blue target reticule will pass over each slot in a constant pattern. Whenever you use an item, clear a line, or execute a Tetris combo, this target determines who will need to deal with the repercussions. So if there's one really good player in the room, you won't need to be overly-anxious over the possibility of getting pummelled constantly by that individual.
Everyone will start off with a player rating of 5,000 when they first head online. Depending on the outcome of a battle and how many people are participating, your rating will be affected with each match you engage in. There's no leaderboard that places you in a specific position in respect to all of the Tetris Party Live players around the world, so it's really just a way of measuring your records from a personal standpoint.
The online portion of the game is where the game is at its best, and it became clear to me that this is the main focus of this portable release. Some cool features about playing online include being able to connect with users who own Tetris Party Deluxe for the Nintendo DS. Another nice feature is the fact that you can interact with players using one of two methods. The first is a simple text chat, activated by pressing the Y Button and scrolling through a list of pre-determined messages. Unfortunately, this can't be used when waiting in the Lobby for a match to start. The second option is a voice chat using the DSi's microphone, which can only be used in a friend room. Friends and family who are significant distances apart will especially appreciate this feature.
If you already own Tetris DS or Tetris Party Deluxe, it's probably better to just stick with what you already have. But if you're in the same boat as me and don't really have a Tetris game for the DS, this is an obvious buy. If the idea of playing online sounds appealing, you'll definitely see reason to come back to this repeatedly. And it's still just as easy to lose yourself in the action as it always was. For $5, you can't go wrong with this.
24/30 - Very Good
Gameplay 9/10 - Doesn't mess with a good thing, items make the game more interesting with an added surprise element, controls work great
Presentation 7/10 - Fairly pleasing execution with a user-friendly layout, multiple music tracks and background images to choose from
Enjoyment 4/5 - Especially fun to play against 4 people online, very addicting, motivating to play as you watch yourself gradually improve
Extra Content 4/5 - Online includes standard Vs. Battle and Duel Spaces, Marathon and Vs. CPU modes for offline play, good value for $5
Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)