(Tetris Axis; Nintendo 3DS; Nintendo; rated everyone)
Gamers don’t really talk about Tetris these days, nor do they spend nine days camped outside a Best Buy store when a new Tetris game is released, for the distinction of being the one to scream “first!” moments before dying of exposure. Yet the classic falling block puzzle game from Russia is perennially among the most-played video games on earth.
Why? Well, it has unusually broad appeal, as games go — Moms love buying it for the kids because in Tetris, no one gets shot in the head. Tetris is also famously ‘a thinking person’s game’, presumably providing timid math genius types with much-needed confidence boosts. Heck, one could build an empire on the backs of those particular consumer groups. But the real reason for its success is that, in its basic form, Tetris is just plain good, not to mention as addictive as chocolate chip cookies with methamphetamine.
Every Nintendo handheld ever built has featured an official Tetris release, sometimes several. Now it’s the 3DS’s turn. But is Tetris Axis a cartridge worth splashing out $29 for?
Mostly. Probably? It really depends on how you’re currently fixed for Tetris, and how devoted you are to your 3DS.
Unique to the 3DS version is, of course, the ability to play in stereoscopic 3D. You use the 3DS’s slide pad to rotate and tilt the board to your liking in 3D space. It’s window dressing, though; the 3D isn’t integral to game play.
On that front, Tetris Axis features an astounding 20 variations of Alexey Pajitnov’s classic puzzler, beyond your standard Marathon Mode. Many are forgettable, but a few work quite well.
Highlights: I loved Stage Racer Plus, a variant in which you maneuver a single tetromino through progressively trickier scrolling obstacle courses. It was the surprise of the collection for me, and will keep Tetris Axis on my playlist for awhile.
Fever Mode features minute-long bursts of sensory overload. As Tetrominos fall, bombs go off, scoreboards flash, and you’re whisked in and out of micro-games t. It felt good, like a trippy mash-up of Tetris matrix and pinball machine.
There are numerous multiplayer options too, including a mode that allows eight 3DS owners to play from a single Tetris cartridge. Network infrastructure seems solid — in my week of test time, I never had trouble finding a match in World Battle mode.
All of that said, it would be unreasonable not to consider Tetris Axis in a broader context—2006’s Tetris DS for the Nintendo DS was a superb Tetris title, utilizing Nintendo’s characters and music to theme its various modes, to give the release tons of 8-bit charm. Tetris Axis is the less visually appealing of the two. Put another way, Tetris Axis looks like what might happen if a Japanese graphic designer ate something hallucinogenic, and halfway through the design process, threw up on his canvas. Also, it doesn’t bring enough innovation or evolution to the table, Tetris DS featured a solid variety of modes, too. If you already own that cartridge (which will work just fine in your 3DS), recommending you replace it with this one is iffy.
Doesn’t improve enough on Tetris DS, lacks some of its character, ugly as sin. Nonetheless it’s Tetris, in a solid collection with good online features and a couple of surprisingly cool variants, and provides something fun and addictive to do with your shiny new 3DS.
3.5 out of 5
‘Side Mission’ Chris Vandergaag loves hearing from Canadian gamers, both the core and the casual. Find him on Twitter @ButNoSeriously