Can you improve on perfection? Tetris is so elegant, it's less of a game and more of an icon, even an addiction. After all, its simplicity has been invading the dreams of players for over 20 years.
In one sense, nothing has changed for this DS incarnation. But in another, everything has. This is Tetris respun for a new generation.
It's business-as-usual though in Tetris DS's standard mode; one of seven variously-shaped blocks (or 'Tetrominos' as we're now encouraged to call them) drops down the screen towards a pile of its jumbled fellows. By rotating the block and plugging gaps in the pile, you can complete entire rows of blocks that then disappear.
Do well, and the screen is progressively cleared of blocks. Do badly, and the pile grows upwards. Either way the game gets ever faster, but a growing stack to clear gives you less time to act… until eventually, it reaches the top of the screen and it's game over.
That basic gameplay is unchanged in two decades – but it's just the start in Tetris DS. Over the past 20 years, countless variations on Tetris have introduced their own tweaks or new features. The DS version offers some new ideas too, as well as cherry-picking from the rest.
One of the latter is ghosting, where a ghost image of the current falling block is shown at the bottom of the screen; you can move it around, and so work out where to place the real block before it reaches the bottom. Most of the game modes in Tetris DS don't use the full width of the DS screen. This means the blocks are small, and without ghosting it's difficult to judge exactly where the blocks will end up.
Combined with the inclusion of a hard drop option – pressing 'up' on the D-pad immediately drops a block into place – this makes Tetris DS a much faster experience, especially in the early stages of a game.
Also included is the ability to save falling blocks in a hold queue. This is handy when the approaching shape doesn't fit into your plans, or if you want to save a particular block to grab multiple lines at once. You can also continually rotate the blocks, even when they've hit the bottom of the screen, helping you slip difficult shapes into place. Finally, the next six Tetrominos to drop are displayed, which eases the planning of complex strategies.
If you fancy a challenge, switch the ghosting and hard drop options off. There's a fair amount of customisation available in Tetris DS – you can set how difficult you want each mode to be, for example – which should increase its shelf-life for even the best players.
There are five other modes to keep you playing too. In Touch, the blocks are already stacked up in an irregular structure – you pull them apart with the stylus to create the usual complete lines. It makes great use of the DS' touch-screen.
Mission mode sees you clearing the screen by completing lines based on specific criteria, such as 'clear two lines with a square', while Puzzle mode gives you just three blocks to clear the board.
In Push mode, you play against the DS or a friend. Your blocks drop from above, your opponent's come up from below, with completed lines shifting the baseline like a tug-of-war.
Finally, in Catch mode, falling pieces stick to a floating core that you can rotate in order to fill out a four-by-four square, which you can then explode, destroying aliens which fall with the blocks. It's the most interesting of all the modes, and while it takes some getting used to, it certainly gets you thinking about Tetris in a new way.
If you're feeling competitive, some of the above can be played over multiplayer too. The wi-fi mode is easy to connect to and lag-free, but the local adhoc mode is where it's really at – you and up to nine of your mates can all play off one Tetris DS card. With the option to pit every man for himself or split the group into teams, you'll have an absolute blast.
All in all, while zealots may grumble it's too easy, everyone else will find Tetris DS pitched at just the right level for months of fun. It's gaming perfection reborn.