Tetris is the most recognizable videogame puzzler of all time. Since its introduction in the '80s, it has appeared on nearly every console. It was launch title for the original Gameboy and was considered that system’s first “killer app.”
Does Axis live up to its pedigree? It certainly tries its best by cramming as much as possible into one cartridge. Ultimately though, it is hampered by the 3DS hardware.
The basic game of Tetris is the same here. Differently shaped colored blocks (called tetrominos) fall from the top of the screen. Creating a solid horizontal line out of the blocks clears that line from the screen. Over the years a few tweaks have been added, but I don’t think any are new to this version. A piece can be held to be used at a more convenient time. Spinning a piece into place right before it locks is called a spin. If a spin clears a line, bonus points are given. HudsonSoft, the game’s developer, has not messed with what works. The basic gameplay is as fun and as addictive as ever.
The game’s menus are split into Featured Modes, Party Modes, AR Modes, Nintendo 3DS Local Play, Nintendo 3DS Download Play, and Internet. The Featured Modes include the most basic versions of the game. The four offered are traditional Tetris, a time attack mode, a versus CPU battle, and a survival mode. In the battle and time attacks modes, items can be earned. The items affect your strategy in interesting ways. For example one item flips your screen with your opponent. One stratagem is to deliberately mess up your play field and then switch with your foe.
Party Mode is not a collection of two-player games but rather a collection of puzzle modes, extreme tweaks to Tetris, and mini-games that use the tetrominos for entirely different things like racing. Different people will have different favorites but I found the Picross-like mini-game particularly charming. You are given a picture to reference then challenged to recreate it with the falling pieces.
There are two AR modes. They require the AR cards that came with the 3DS to play. There is AR Marathon where you try to clear 50 lines as quickly as possible and AR Climber where you stack pieces in a cylinder to advance a stick figure to the top of it. Both are incredibly frustrating. The AR card must be placed on a well-lit flat surface that you are able to move completely around (360 degrees). The blocks fall from all angles so unrestricted movement is important. It is an interesting idea but it is impossible to keep the AR card at its proper viewing distance while moving. It is doubtful many people have a surface allows them to play these AR games easily.