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For more than two decades, Tetris has been a gaming staple, and for good reason. It is simple in concept, easy to play, and one of the most addictive puzzle titles ever created. Thus it should come as no surprise that there would eventually be a version released for the Nintendo Wii. Sure enough, in October 2008, Tetris Party hit the WiiWare download service, featuring the same classic gameplay we've all come to know and love as well as a plethora of other modes. How does this version of the classic puzzler stack up to other recent editions? Pretty doggone well.
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By this time, most players know the basics of how Tetris works. Blocks called "tetrominoes" fall from the top of the screen in one of seven different shapes, and the player must arrange them in such a way that they stretch all the way across the playing area. From one to four lines can be cleared at one time, with more points being awarded based on how many the player is able to eliminate. In Tetris Party, players control the action via the Wii Remote, held sideways. Pushing to either side on the directional pad moves the piece around the board, while pushing down speeds up its decent and pushing up locks it instantly into place, just like in Tetris DS. The 1 and 2 buttons rotate the piece 90 degrees, while the A-button allows the player to place one tetromino in the "hold" position (or swap the piece already held there for another). Essentially, Tetris Party plays a lot like the Nintendo DS version of the game, except for a handful of Wii Remote specific controls found in some of the game's other play modes.
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Yes, the basic or "marathon" style of play is just one of the multiple modes present in Tetris Party. One of these new modes is called "Field Climber," where the mission is to use the playing pieces to build a staircase from the bottom of the screen to the top, so that a little white stick figure man can climb them one block at a time to reach a goal. In another, "Shadow" mode, players need to create a picture by moving the tetrominoes to fill shaded blocks, with points awarded for accuracy after the image is complete. Yet another new mode of play, "Stage Racer," sees gamers take control of one of the seven tetrominoes and guide it through a maze, twisting it and altering its speed in order to help it reach its goal as quickly as possible. Tetris itself may be a fairly standard, traditional game, but the developers of Tetris Party have definitely gone out of their way to shake things up a bit.
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This is a fairly deep package for a Tetris game. Each of the aforementioned single-player modes is also available in multiplayer as well, as are two others, "vs. Hot Lines" and "Duel Spaces". The former requires players to race against competitors to clear out specific, highlighted rows, while the latter is reminiscent of that old pen-and-paper game where you take turns drawing lines on a piece of paper in order to make boxes and acquire as much territory as possible. As if that wasn't enough, the game also features co-op play for the first-time ever, as well as a special easier mode for beginners, Wii Balance Board support, both local multiplayer and online play over Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (complete with online leaderboards and support for tournament play), and even different achievements awarded for completing specific in-game feats. There's a lot to like here.
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Graphics & Sound
When it comes to judging the visuals of a Tetris game, the most important thing is that they are crisp and clean, and in no way detract from the gameplay. For the most part, Tetris Party accomplishes this, but there are a few modes (particularly "vs. Hot Lines") where things are a little difficult to see. Furthermore, the integration of the Miis into this title is nicely done, but some of the background movement in certain stages can be a little distracting. Music, on the other hand, is cheery and fairly high in quality. It even features a cool upbeat remix of the popular Tetris theme from back in the Game Boy days that plays during Marathon mode. All together, the audio and video quality is solidly above average, with only the slightest of minor issues as mentioned above.
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Anyone who already has a good working version of Tetris may be hesitant to download Tetris Party. After all, one version of Tetris is as good as another, right? Not in this case. The additional modes aren't just throw-ins, they are actually very good variations on the main game. This reviewer particularly enjoyed the challenges of "Field Climber" and "Shadow" modes. Plus, with the online tournaments, the worldwide leader boards, the Balance Board support, and the unlockable achievements added to the already solid core gameplay of the base game, Tetris Party is most likely the deepest version of Alexey Pajitnov's masterpiece to date. Even at 1200 Wii Points ($12.00), it's well worth downloading.