Tetris is one of those iconic gaming titles that everyone, even non-gamers, are familiar with. For the past twenty or so years, versions of Tetris have been available for more platforms than you can shake an L piece at. I myself have owned Tetris for the NES, the old school Game Boy, the PC, and even one of my old cell phones. But the cream of the crop, to this point, has been Tetris DS. Easily, Tetris DS is the best package of Tetris I've ever played. However, a new challenger has come along, and brings Co-Op to the table. Is Tetris Party, then, the best Tetris game ever?
As soon as I saw that there was a co-op mode, I know I had to have Tetris Party. Multiplayer has been a staple of Tetris games from the beginning, but, to my knowledge, only in a competitive sense. Dropping a fat load of blocks into your friend's field is satisfying, for sure, but it isn't very friendly. Working together to clear as many lines as possible? That's much more fun! I did have a few concerns about the co-op mode as I downloaded the game, though. Would it really feel like co-op, or just like two guys playing plain ol' Tetris side by side? Would the control scheme be simple buttons and D-Pad, or waggle based, like another classic puzzler with a co-op mode on Wiiware? Most important, if my son messed up, and screwed up our board, would his teachers be able to see the bruises the next day?
We fired up the game, and all my questions were answered. The game is controlled by the sideways Wiimote, NES style. This was a huge relief for me, after the Dr. Mario Online debacle. Setting up players was a piece of cake, too, as easy as selecting your Mii. We began to play and immediately, I could tell this was a good co-op experience. Each player's ghost piece is a different color, so it's easy to tell who's who. You can put pieces all over the board with total freedom. We quickly started talking about where to put our pieces. Many cries of "no wait, put it over here" and the like filled the room. It was quite enjoyable. You only get one shared Hold piece between the two of you, so that has to be coordinated as well. Our first run through, we cleared just over 50 lines. Once the pace quickens, it becomes far more difficult, and in my opinion, much harder than playing single player. If you make a mistake, cleaning it up can be quite a challenge, and it seemed like mistakes snowballed into more mistakes faster than playing single player.
We fired it up again, and that's when I noticed something. This small little factor makes the game click, from a co-op sense. I noticed that I got only L and J shapes, squares, and Is. Never did I get a T or the S or Z shaped tetrominos. My son was the exact opposite, though he too got I shapes. It seems simple in hindsight, but once you realize you're never going to get that Z shape you need to fill a hole, the game becomes far more cooperative. Once we realized the limited pieces each player got, we played much better, eventually topping 70 lines before we failed. And even when we did fail, it was quite fun and hectic.
The best part of Tetris Party is the huge variety in game modes. There are over a dozen, and many of them are brand new. It's very similar to Tetris DS in this respect. Particularly cool was the climber mode, where you race against other players to make a staircase for a little man to climb up to the top of the screen. I even dusted off the Wii Balance Board for Balance Board Tetris. Its a simpler, slower version of Tetris, with some smaller pieces mixed in. I found it to be hard on my back, but amusing. I could see this mode in particular being a big hit at a party.
Tetris Party is easily worth the 1200 Wii Points it costs. When I compare the play value in this to other co-op WiiWare titles like Dr. Mario Online, Wild West Guns, and Pop!, it stands head and shoulders above them. I love my Tetris DS for when I'm on the go, but Tetris Party is by far the best home console version of the game. I still prefer the presentation of Tetris DS over that of Tetris Party, so I can't say it's hands down the best Tetris title ever. As far as the co-op aspects go, the lack of online co-op is inexcusable. For the local co-op, I think perhaps one or two more players should have been included. Maybe that would be too many, but it'd sure be fun to try!
The Co-Op Experience:
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.