Tetris Axis Review (3DS)

Remember Tetris DS?  I remember picking that up the first day it was out and spending hours at a time going through everything that Nintendo had put together for it.  The little Mario-esque touches were phenomenal and the gameplay itself wasn’t changed a bit, even though the modes themselves offered plenty of diversity.  Well, good news and bad news.  The good news is Nintendo managed to get the Tetris license back, and has put it to good use with the recently released Tetris Axis.  The bad news?  It’s not entirely Tetris DS 2.

When we first popped this game in, maybe we were expecting a bit too much, like a Mario welcome, or at least one of the modes that made the previous Tetris game worth playing.  Instead, we got some all new modes, including a couple that try to take advantage of the 3DS’ visual depth.  It’s not a losing package by any means, but it feels second-rate in certain areas.

Let’s talk about the modes.  There’s Jigsaw, an interesting mode where you rotate puzzle pieces and try to stack them so you can match an already completed image that sits on the bottom screen.  It’s not bad, but those of you who don’t care for puzzles will probably skip this one.  Stage Racer Plus is a more interesting mode, where you guide a Tetris piece (or Tetrimino, as it’s “officially” named) through a vertical maze, inching your way through sections and trying to stay afloat.  It’s a bit unnecessary, but something worth trying just to see if it sticks with you.

Continuing on, we have Fit, which is probably one of the better 3D modes in the game, where you try to use an existing set of Tetris pieces to fill in gaps to complete lines, from a viewpoint that really makes good use of 3D depth.  It can be a little distracting at first, but stick with it and you might get into it.  Topping off the modes are a pretty good Fever mode, where you work with a smaller playfield and try to score as many points as possible, and Bombliss Plus, complete with bomb blocks that can obliterate nearby pieces.

None of these modes are memorable enough to stay with you in the long-term, but if you’re a Tetris fan, they might be of interest.  What won’t be of interest, though, are the power-ups.  Rather than trying to slow your opponent down or give you an advantage in battle, they end the fight way too quickly.  We’d rather have something that stuns someone we’re playing against, rather than taking them out completely, thanks.

Speaking of that, the game does offer multiplayer, either online through the Wi-Fi Connection (with friends or in random matches) or locally through Game Sharing.  The local option is best, as there’s not much action happening in the lobby – not as of yet, anyway.  Maybe after the holidays?  But anyway, outside of painful power-up usage, the competitive side isn’t half bad.  Find some friends and get to Tetris linking.

The presentation may be lacking that certain personality that made Tetris DS shine, but it’s still not bad.  The visuals are bright and colorful, complete with an array of backgrounds and some particularly recognizable characters from the Hudson universe (they developed it), including Bomberman.  We could’ve done without the goofy Mii dancer on the bottom screen, though.  And the music?  Nothing short of excellent.  The familiar Tetris themes are back, but remixed with a desirable amount of flourish.

If you really must own one Tetris game for your 3DS, make it Tetris DS, even if it is a little tough to track down.  However, if you don’t really care about the extras and just want to get into a match of Pajitnov’s classic game, Tetris Axis is an acceptable substitution.  Marathon Mode remains the best way to go, though local multiplayer is also recommended, just for the sake of trumping your friends in Tetrimino domination.