There’s a segment of us who remember playing Tetris on the emerald dotted screens of Nintendo’s original honkin big n’ sturdy Game Boy. Over the course of the past 30 years, the Russian puzzle game has embedded itself in pop culture along the same lines of recognizability as Superman’s “S”. This new Tetris Effect game takes that same mental workout we remember and smashes it in a black hole creating one of the best sense altering experiences in years.
Developed By: Monstars Inc. and Resonair
Published By: Enhance Inc
Available for: PlayStation 4 (With VR support included)
Let’s start with what Tetris Effect is not…a multiplayer game.
Those who are looking for a direct competitive challenge with friends aren’t going to find it here. Competitive worldwide leaderboards are the extent of bragging rights you’ll get here. There definitely are reasons for not including head to head multiplayer modes. Much of the atmosphere that makes up the experience for your senses is intertwined to every button you’ll push. When you rotate a block or clear a line; sound effects blend into the music on screen and if you’re good enough, will create a different harmony to enjoy. Imagine if two players were doing it at the same time, it would be utter sonic chaos.
While I’m sure there could have been a solution to the lack of head-to-head gameplay, the degree to which you’ll miss direct multiplayer modes in a Tetris game varies and there’s enough of a fresh take on the puzzle game itself that I didn’t miss it one bit.
What Tetris Effect is at its core is an intimate stimulation of your senses. You don’t necessarily have to play the game in VR to get much of the punch it packs. My first playthrough was on standard 1080p display mode and it still translated much of its beauty. While playing in standard display mode is best described as looking at paintings in an art gallery, it’s the 3D VR mode that elevates this game into a different entity.
When you immerse yourself through PlayStation VR the Rez style of visual takes on a different life. It’s instantly addicting to see the explosions and waves of color as background elements collide in a cosmic looking dance. Full disclosure, I’ve never smoked marijuana or done any kind of hallucinogen drug in my entire life, but I feel as though after playing the game I understand what that’s like. It’s just that much of a trip. The style isn’t limited to an outer space voyage, Tetris Effect will take you on a journey through its campaign fittingly called “Journey Mode”. You’ll experience digital versions of the Aurora Borealis, firey island settings, and calming aerial flights as you work to put together falling blocks in order to clear the requisite number of lines. It’s almost a challenge to focus on the game itself with everything going on around you and you can easily get distracted sheer beauty unfolding. You’re not without unique tools of your own to help when the speed ramps up and it becomes overwhelming. As you stack blocks and clear lines, you’ll fill a special meter that, with the push of R2, enters things into a sort of Tetris bullet time that allows you to regain your bearings and clear lines for bonus points. It’s one of the better mechanical additions to Tetris and doesn’t feel like cheating at all.
Then there’s the way the aesthetic combines with one of the best audio designs of 2018. Either play this game through headphones or any kind of surround sound system. The original score and music choices are incredible. A game with this level of color use could have simply settled for a pure EDM soundtrack. While that might sound like a good time for some, it would have given me a f***ing headache. Instead what you get is a balance of electronica, jazz, trip-hop, and folk influence. Audio as full of variety as its visual counterpart. When you combine the reward of the puzzle solving with soothing audio tracks and absolutely striking visual presentation it amounts to a fantasia invoking good time.
Once you complete the campaign mode, you’ll have a few other ways to play the game through modes like score attack, marathon, and ultra challenge. Each of which has their own unique touches or rules to follow. Most surprising was the time I spent in what the game refers to as “Theater”. This mode allows you to revisit any the levels without having to play the game. You even get to push buttons and add your own melodic effects to the music. I couldn’t get enough of the mountain scene; it’s rhythmic bass line and harmony effects we’re like something created by the RZA himself.
Tetris by nature is intended to have a level of frustration. Usually, that wall is where I put any of these games down and walk away. I simply couldn’t walk away from this. While there’s plenty of challenge to be found here, every time I hit a wall I found myself simply wanting to try again in order to see the next piece of eye-candy this game held. It’s just that addicting. Tetris Effect is a great time for those who don’t own a PSVR headset but it becomes a masterpiece of 3D art for those able to immerse themselves in VR. A mashup of two worlds that produces an instant addiction, one which resonates more than any game in 2018.
10/10 Tetris Effect is what happens when RZA and Moby play records for you while Norman Rockwell paints as you play Tetris.