Tetris is one of those games that I equate to comfort food. The timing is perfect because as the weather gets colder and the seasonal travel increases, the ability to access this digital comfort food is very welcome indeed. Tetris has been around long enough now that fans are in for very few surprises, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
The basic game of Tetris has been around a long time, and its core hook - throwing patterns of blocks created out of four segments at the player at increasing speeds - is still as addictive as ever. Spin and drop the blocks to fill lines and keep the pile of misshapen blocks from reaching the top of the screen. Simple, fun - one of the few games I could get my dad to play with me on my old NES a couple of decades ago.
Once again the property has moved on to a new development team (remember when Tengen had all those problems with Nintendo years ago? Now it seems like the Tetris property changes hands every few years or so). Still, the more things change, the more they stay the same. There are a handful of different offline modes meant to add variety to the familiar Marathon mode. Endless, Sprint, Battle and Invisible are examples of some of the modes you can play. The variety provided are met with varying degrees of success. Rotation Lock keeps you from turning the blocks at all, while Invisible means you cannot see the pieces you have already put down. The former works far better than the latter.
The list of modes is impressive (though I recall the PSN version of Tetris providing just a few more several years ago on the PlayStation 3), but the bulk of your time will likely be spent in online modes. Here there is a healthy competition between players who want to not only rid their screen of lines - but add lines to their opponent's stack. It is the true and tried formula that the old Nintendo version of Tetris missed but more recent iterations have down pat.
Visually... well, this is Tetris. The screens are clean and I appreciate the grid in the background for 'lining things up'. The blocks are colorful and the use of Miis to help identify players is a nice touch. Something about the remixed music does not sit quite as well with me as some of the classic, original tunes Tetris is so well known for. All in all, a nice presentation, but much like the modes in question - we are not reinventing the wheel here.
On the one hand, that is fine. Tetris is tried and true. Unfortunately with modes that have shown up in various incarnations over the past years through other releases. It would have been nice to see a few more modes or options cooked up. What? I do not know myself to be perfectly honest - if I did I would be busy trying to program the next great Tetris title. As it is, I have to settle for playing them, and Tetris Ultimate still provides plenty of fun on that front.
If you enjoy Tetris and its mind-bending nature of escalating speeds and difficulty, then Tetris Ultimate is going to suit you just fine. If you have other versions of Tetris, such as Tetris 3D from a couple of years ago on your 3DS, there probably is not enough reason to buy it again this time around. If you lack any form of Tetris for your 3DS however, Tetris Ultimate is a great title worth bringing along on all of that holiday travel and absolutely worth spending some time with.
Review by Nick