Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tetris Party Review

Been a busy week, what with all the games and watching many, many episodes of Lost, but I found some time to purchase my very first WiiWare game for the Nintendo Wii. Yeah, the service was launched in May, but it was meh, and I couldn't part with my previous Wii Points. Anyways, I decided it was finally time to take the plunge, and I did so with Tetris Party. With all the interesting modes and classic gameplay, how could I resist?

If you want to check out the review, you can do so at the good old Classic VFH. I hope you enjoy. For the curious, but lazy, I gave it a 4.5/5. Not too shabby.

Keep checking back, as I plan to review Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia for the Nintendo DS by the end of the weekend, and Strong Bad's CGFAP: Baddest of the Bands sometime soon.
UPDATE (3/22/10) VFH Classic is dead:

Tetris is making another round to gamers; this time on the Wii with Tetris Party, recently released for WiiWare for 1200 Points. Can Tetris follow the Wii’s lead of bringing innovative gameplay to gamers, or will it just be another block on the pile?

Luckily for you who purchased the game, there is a lot in store for you, with a total of 9 or so unique modes, many of which are completely new. Before I get into all the modes, allow me to discuss the game’s main features, which are present in most, if not all modes. Firstly, each mode has a set of rules you can read up on, and a video tutorial you can view for full comprehension. From there, you can choose from one of 10 backgrounds, each of which are stylish, but you’ll be too focused on those falling pieces to pay much attention to the back drop anyways. You can also choose your music from 9 songs, most of which are tantalizing enough, and one is even from the original game, which is good for some nostalgia.

To play the game, you hold the controller on its side, in the “classic” formation. Press the D-pad left and right to move a tetromino, and you can press down to make it slide down faster, and up to do a hard drop, which will send it immediately to the bottom. You can use the 1 and 2 buttons to rotate the blocks, and B to hold a block. In Tetris Party, you are given the ability to hold a single block, which you can then use later, so if you come upon a line tetromino, but don’t want to use it yet, you can hold it for later domination. And you are also given a little queue that shows about 5 of the upcoming pieces so you can build up a strategy. Another useful feature that you have at your disposal is a “ghost” of the tetromino, which shows you where it will land at that point, which makes it very easy to judge where that baby will land if you want to just do a hard drop.

Tetris Party also implements items, which you can choose to turn off if you want a fairer fight. There are a total of 10 items, each of which do a special thing, some good for you, some bad for them. Items will randomly appear as a single block. When you clear the line in which that block lies, you get the item. You can use the item by pressing the A button, and most items require you to point on the screen to aim your attack, and doing so will freeze your blocks from falling, so you don’t have to worry about getting distracted.

Some four player action, which can get pretty crazy if you have items turned on. Aside from these items though, as you clear lines, you send lines to your opponents which will help in their demise.

Onwards to the modes, and to start things off, I’ll discuss the game types under the Single Player section. The first mode is the standard marathon, which can either be endless or go until you clear 150 lines or die, so this is a good place to start to warm up on those rusty Tetris skills. If you’re looking for a bit of competition, then you can do a computer battle, which is a standard head to head match to see who can last the longest. Then there are another 3 modes which are unique to Tetris Party and add a twist to the standard gameplay: Field Climber, Shadow, and Stage Racer.

Field Climber is pretty interesting, and features a little mountain climber guy. Your goal is to get the climber to the top of the screen by setting tetrominos down for him to climb on. However, you can’t just drop them blocks haphazardly, or you’ll never make it to the top. You have to be careful not to trap or squash your little climber, so some strategy is needed. There are 10 stages to play on, and the harder ones have flags scattered throughout the grid that you must collect, so you have to work out some plan. Also, the climber can only climb a single block at a time, so you have to seriate your blocks properly if you hope to reach the peak.

Here, you can see your little friend almost at the very top. You must create single-block steps for him to climb and be sure not to trap him. He'll wonder side to side until you get your act together though, so try to stay calm and make wise decisions.

Another new mode is Shadow, which has you filling in a picture with your tetrominos. The grid has a shaded region, and it is your goal to fill that region, which will make up a picture. There are 30 of these stages, and in order to move on, you have to completely fill in the picture, which can be very challenging, as you may accidentally block or trap yourself, and it is important to note that you can still clear lines while playing in this mode, which can make things very difficult. There are a few smaller pieces to help fill in the image, but be careful, for every piece that is outside the outline will cost you your overall % score.

A sweet Bomberman image. Once you put a tetromino in place, it'll turn a certain color to go along with the picture, which is cool, but be careful. It will be counted against you if you go outside the shading, so each move must be planned. You can also choose to skip a certain number of blocks that just wouldn't work, but it is limited, so choose wisely.

The last single player mode that is unique to Tetris Party is Stage Racer, which doesn’t play like Tetris at all. There are another 10 stages, and it sort of places like a maze, except not. You are given a single, specific tetromino piece, and you have to guide it down toward the bottom, as the grid streams a course down that you must navigate. If you get stuck and are forced to the top, you lose. So, you basically just keep trying to get your piece to the bottom, until the end, by constantly rotating and moving your piece. It’s interesting, but nothing that will hold your attention for too long.

Then you have the multi-player modes, most of which are simply multiplayer versions of the single player types, allowing for up to four people or bots to play together. You have VS. Battle, VS. Field Climber, VS. Shadow, and VS. Stage Racer, and then the new modes, VS. Hot Lines, Co-Op Tetris, and Duel Spaces. All of these modes, except the last two, can be either every man for himself, or set up for teams of your choosing. If you are on a team, you don’t work together, but simply if you or your team member is the first to clear the objective, your team wins.

Hot Lines has certain lines highlighted on the grid, and these are the ones that you must clear, so you’ll have to build up a tower to these lines, and then move some blocks over the highlighted areas and clear the lines like you normally would. First one to clear all of them wins.

Co-op Tetris is pretty crazy, especially when you play with the uncooperative computer. In this two-player mode, you both play on a large grid and try to work together to clear lines. This works well enough with another human player, but the computer is so quick and just lays blocks down left and right, so it is very easy to get lost and confused; not knowing which piece is yours, even though you both have a different color; and because the computer can obviously think and move faster than you, he’ll end up places a tetromino where you were planning to put one, so playing with the computer isn’t that much fun.

The last mode here is the Duel Spaces mode, which is really fun. This is also a two-player affair and has you playing on the same extended grid, but instead, you are working against each other. In this mode, you take turns placing blocks and your goal is to “capture” the white space. (White Space = programming term, sorry, but basically, it’s the empty space in-between the blocks…hard to explain) Basically, it’s like a game of squares, where you take turns drawing a line on a sheet of dots, and you try to get squares. It’s fun to work off your opponent and take a whole bunch of squares at once, punishing him when he makes a mistake. When you reach the top, the game ends and the player with the largest area, or number of squares is the winner.

Still any body's game if they play it wisely. I'm surprised they made a stack in the middle, leaving the sides open for attack...interesting, but dangerous strategy.

So, after you’ve played through these modes, you probably think you’re hot stuff, right? Shooot, you destroyed the computer, and you think you can take on anybody? If so, then you’ll want to head over to the Wi-Fi so you can partake in some World Battles against anyone in the world to prove your Tetris skills. You can play against a random person or against a friend, although the only thing you can play is your standard Tetris battle, which is unfortunate. You can select your region of choice to play in, and you can map a few chat messages to the D-pad to use during play, although they are all pre-written and rather limited. It generally doesn’t take too long to find an opponent, but while you wait, you are given a practice grid to play on so you won’t get bored and can keep your mind sharp in preparation. Once the opponent comes in, you can press the + button to indicate you are ready, and once they do the same, you start playing. When the game ends, you can choose to continue and play another round, or quit. Unfortunately, you cannot choose to befriend any of the people you play against, and you don’t even know their names; only their Mii representations. You gain or lose points at the end of each match, depending on if you win or not, and this is your ranking, so at least there is that. Also, there are going to be tournaments that you can partake in, and I hear you can even win prizes, such as Wii Points, so that is pretty awesome and should keep you coming back for more to prove your skills and win some stuff while doing it.

After playing all this Tetris though, your mom or friend or somebody will probably call you a lazy slob or couch potato, and that makes you sad, but fret not, for you can prove them wrong by not only having fun, but getting some, um…..exercise. Tetris Party also features a couple Balance Board modes, including Marathon, Computer Battle, and Ultra. The first two you know, but Ultra is not really all that ultra…Ultra mode just has a 3 minute counter in which you must rack up as many points as possible, so that isn’t too exciting. Each of these modes feature a smaller grid to play on; actually, the grid itself is about the same size, but the blocks you use are larger, so there are fewer spaces. Also, the blocks themselves are simpler, making it easier to manipulate and fit pieces onto the board. The controls are rather simple, and very responsive. You move the blocks side-to-side by shifting left and right on the board, while leaning up or down to move the blocks faster downwards. You rotate the blocks, interestingly enough, by squatting, but you don’t have to squat all the way to the floor or anything; a simple movement will do the trick. Using the Balance Board is fun, although moving the tetrominos to the right spot can be tricky and frustrating as you move it too far over to the right or left, so it takes a bit of getting used to. Also, because all of the modes are essentially the same and use simple pieces and a smaller board, the novelty wears off fairly quickly and you’ll just want to get back to standard Tetris.

Some Balance Board action. As you can see, the board is smaller and consists of larger blocks, most of which are very simple and easiler to fit and manipulate.

And that brings us to the end of the modes in the game, aside from a Beginner’s mode that uses the same large, simple pieces that were in the Balance Board modes, but yeah. After going through all of these modes, and playing for a few days, you may want to check out your high scores, which you can easily do from the Records section. This section holds ALL of your high scores, and they are sorted very precisely, so you can check your high score in any and every mode, and there is even a neat graph of your skills, scored in a variety of areas. Tetris Party also features a ton of achievements for you to unlock, specific to each mode, so as you play through the game, you can check back every now and again to see if you’ve unlocked any new ones.

Overall, Tetris Party is a great addition to the series and has really added in some cool modes that are really varied and give you a brand new experience and a reason to purchase yet another Tetris game. Also, considering this is a WiiWare game for only 1200 points, or $12, you are getting a great deal for your money. You are getting 18 modes technically, 10 of which are completely new, including Balance Board support and online play, which features tournaments where you can win prizes. The game supports 4-player local play, where you can use bots if you like, and 6-player friend gaming, so there are plenty of opportunities to play with your friends and have a good time. The items and varied game modes add an enjoyable twist, but you can always play classic Tetris if you like. Tetris Party, with its classic gameplay that we all grew up with and new twists, makes it one of the best games for WiiWare yet.


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