Here’s the thing about Tetris on any device or console: it’s kind of hard to screw up. If you have all the correct pieces, and manageable controls, then you’re in good shape. Tetris Party Live completes these very simple prerequisites by offering a Tetris game that is flawlessly functional. Pieces drop and animate well, and the controls feel right. That part is pretty easy. It’s all the additional stuff that will or will not make the purchase of this game worthwhile, and it’s a bit limited.
The first thing to realize about Tetris Party Live is that it costs less than lunch at McDonald’s. Tetris Party Live is only $5. Gamers paid about $90 to have a portable version of Tetris when the Game Boy first released in 1990, and now, as long as you’ve got a DSi, you can have a version of Tetris (with color!) for less than you probably spend on coffee. The package feels limited, but given the price, it’s easy to forgive the game.
Tetris Party Live includes the standard endless Tetris mode, the option to play against a computer, the option to play against people sitting next to you, and the option to play against up to three people who are sitting hundreds of miles away from you. The single-player and local multiplayer modes are recognizable, and don’t require any kind of real explanation, unless you have never seen or heard of Tetris. If that is the case, then by all means stop reading this and go ahead and buy this game. Tetris is the most universally appreciated puzzle game ever, and if it has somehow flown under your radar after all of these years, then you have some gaming to catch up on. You don’t have time to be reading internet articles about Tetris, you need to get out there and live it! The available online modes of Tetris, on the other hand, require a little bit of explanation.
There are a couple of different options when it comes to online play. You can play one-on-one, standard Tetris against the world, or you can play against up to three players with items. When items are present, players will earn Mario Kart-style attacks as lines are removed. These items can be both offensive and defensive, and do things like obscure the screen of your opponent, lock their pieces in place, or help you clear your screen when you are running into trouble. It changes the average Tetris tactics only slightly, but makes the multiplayer interesting, and learning the best way to use the different items encourages players to return to the multiplayer repeatedly. The other online game is quite different from the Tetris we have come to know and get frustrated by, but still love.
In Dual Spaces mode, the well (play space) for Tetris pieces is greatly widened, and players take turn controlling the tetrominoes. The goal of this mode is to enclose as many open spaces among Tetris pieces as you can. Fitting pieces correctly in this mode is actually a hindrance to your end goal. It truly forces the player to look at Tetris in a new way, and is a worthwhile distraction from the standard game.
All of the online modes feed into a numerical score that basically works as a stand-in for a rank. Nothing is unlocked by advancing your score, but as a badge of skill, it works well to define your abilities.
Other than the multiplayer score, which works as a rank, there are no online leaderboards of any kind, which is a huge oversight for a puzzle game. There is no incentive to break your high score, other than personal satisfaction. Putting the terms Party and Live in the title of the game signify two things: Party means that you will be interacting with many other players, and Live means that it will be happening in real time, on the internet. The complete lack of online leaderboards means there is no way to track your abilities against that of the online party, and it means that there isn’t much driving you to play the single-player game. Luckily, it does keep track of your personal score, but only for you.
The missing leaderboards are strange, but what is being offered here for $5 is a great little package. Snappy online play, a few worthy distractions from the familiar Tetris, and the all-important Tetris music (albeit, slightly remixed) are all here. The game is even set up so that you can play Tetris while you are waiting for your online Tetris game to start. Simply stated, this game is all about making sure you can get those pieces dropping as fast as possible. If you want more modes, and a whole bunch of extras, Tetris Party Deluxe is available as a retail release, and offers a much more diverse Tetris for $30, but if you just want simply Tetris with some worthy extras, you can’t go wrong for $5.
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