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Joystiq hands-on: Tetris Party (WiiWare)

Zack Stern

We've soaked up Tetris on countless platforms. There's a balance to strike between versions that retain enough of the core game to be authentically Tetris, and adding new puzzle elements. Tetris Party for WiiWare nails this demand, providing about a dozen game modes, many of which, are all-new. Call it "yet another Tetris?" Maybe. But this is a Tetris on which we'll gladly spend 1,200 Wii points with its release sometime this month.

Nintendo claims there are 18 modes, 10 of which are new, but we only agree technically; the company counts some modes twice as single- and multi-player games. (Most modes support up to four players on one system, and a few work with up to six online.) We tore into as many as we could before overloading like a kid on a Halloween sugar-high. Here's how they stand up.

Gallery: Tetris Party (WiiWare, 10-06-08) | 10 Photos

VS Battle
: Up to four players can compete locally and six online in this Tetris standard. Certain bricks are highlighted when played, earning power-ups when cleared. (Items and other rules can be customized.) We enjoyed the pace of the game, although some power-ups could become annoying. For example, one fogs up an opponent's board, and that person has to shake the Wiimote to clear the view.

VS Hot Lines: Seen in other versions of the game, up to four local players race to clear highlighted rows on the board. Changing to this after a long Battle felt refreshing.

VS Shadow
: Players race to fill-in an outlined shape as accurately as possible. The Tetris blocks vary beyond the standards, including a three-block corner and other smaller shapes. We got bored with this game quickly, trying to make an apple, but maybe we'd find depth after playing more

VS Stage Racer
: Steer a falling shape through a nearly-endless maze. This mode includes frequent, narrow openings, where you have to jam part of a block through a hole and rotate a certain direction to make it through. As Nintendo mentioned, we could hone our rotating skills by playing lots of this mode, but it didn't hold up as well as others.

VS Field Climber
: This game is the least like Tetris, but one of our favorites. A stick-figure person who's the size of a single block, ambles along the ground, and players have to guide the character up to targeted points. The figure can only climb stairs that are one-block high, so it takes a little planning not to trap or crush him. If trapped, you can clear lines to create an opening. If crushed, you lose. We look forward to exploring this mode further, since it felt like a strange mash-up of Echochrome and Tsunde Tsumi Kiss.

Duel Spaces
: Unconventional for a Tetris game, this two-player mode uses standard blocks to corral area. The gamer with the most space at the end wins. We quickly learned to watch the upcoming shapes list. When trading turns back-and-forth, we knew a four-block line was coming next, and the only piece possible to secure a big space we'd been building. This mode was another favorite.

Balance Board
: Extra-big, simple shapes fall into a smaller-sized area. Players control their path by leaning on the Balance Board. The big shapes felt easier to manage, but we still wanted a way to play with standard blocks. We quickly got used to leaning to steer horizontally, and up or down to drop faster. While keeping our feet planted, short hops with our weight spun the blocks. It was fun, but this mode had the least depth of any.

We didn't play the single-player games: Marathon, Computer Battle, or Beginner's Marathon (which uses the same blocks as the Balance Board). And a cooperative mode lets two players take turns, collaborating for lines on an extra-wide board.

Even without playing a few of the game modes, we've already set aside the Wii Points to buy Tetris Party. Tetris DS felt like the definitive, portable, multi-player version of the game. This edition could become the clear console leader.

Gallery: Tetris Party (WiiWare) | 27 Photos

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