Tetris Effect is the latest release developed by Resonair and Monstars Inc and published by Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Enhance Inc. This is the third collaboration between the three companies, following this year’s Lumines Remastered and 2016’s Rez Infinite and it certainly follows the pedigree of Mizuguchi’s previous games where music, visuals, and gameplay all intertwine to evoke a feeling of synesthesia.
The core gameplay follows the familiar Tetris rules. Tetriminos (various shaped blocks consisting of four connected squares) fall from the sky and when manipulated into horizontal lines they are cleared from the board and scored based on the number of lines cleared at once. It also follows the newer Tetris guidelines that allow “holding” one piece to the side to swap out when you need it, and spinning pieces while they are on the ground before settling into place (which allows for some higher-scoring moves such as the “T-spin”).
Most of the new Tetris features are found in the main “Journey” mode. This mode is very reminiscent of Lumines, where you play a series of stages, each with unique backgrounds, visual effects, music, sound effects, and block designs. Individual levels can also evolve in the middle of gameplay. One of my favorites started out with a background of people on camels walking across a desert, rotating and dropping Tetriminos creating sounds of shifting sands when suddenly the scene shifted to a different desert- the surface of the moon, with an astronaut in a buggy driving past, as the music makes a more melodic shift.
The way that moving, rotating, and dropping pieces create sound effects that match the stage sometimes makes you feel like you’re playing an instrument and contributing to the soundtrack yourself. Many times, I found myself delaying making an optimal move in order to drop it on time with the beat, or moving pieces back and forth with unnecessary extra rotations, just to make it sound “better.”
Mechanically, Journey adds a “Zone” mechanic to the game, wherein a meter fills as you play and complete lines. When you activate Zone, time stops until the meter empties or a piece reaches the top of the screen. While the Zone is active, completed lines drop to the bottom of the screen instead of clearing. When the Zone meter runs out, all completed lines are cleared simultaneously, allowing one to score even more points than the normal Tetris (4-line clear) such as with a “Dodecatris” (12-line clear), “Decahexatris” (16-line clear), or even a “Perfectris” (17-19 line clear).
In addition to Journey, Tetris Effect has a “Effect Mode” which consists of various sub-types of Tetris objectives including the Tetris-standards Marathon (150 line clear), Sprint (40 line clear), and Ultra (3-minute timer) as well as new ones such as “Purify” where you only get credit for clearing lines that include “infected” blocks and “Mystery” where the stages and rules can change at any time, forcing you to deal with handicaps such as hiding the preview of the next piece or even flipping the stage upside down (which can be incredibly disorienting).
Multiplayer only consists of Leaderboards and every Saturday’s “Weekly Ritual”, where the community pools points together in specified game modes in order to unlock Avatars and gain accesses to a secret “1989” stage inspired by the original Game Boy release of Tetris. There is no direct-competitive multiplayer whatsoever so if you want a head-to-head Tetris battle on the PS4, break out your copy of Sega’s Puyo-Puyo Tetris.
While the game is very playable in 2D mode on the regular Playstation 4, Tetris Effect is optimally played in VR mode with headphones. This allows you to really immerse yourself into the sights and sounds of the game and ended up being my best experience with PSVR to date. The soundtrack composed by Hydelic is the true star of the game and it is well worth experiencing in the highest possible fidelity available.
Tetris Effect has a fairly straightforward trophy list, but the Platinum will only be earned by the best and most dedicated Tetris players as it is gate-kept by the “Seriously? Seriously.” trophy which requires the highest “SS” rank in every mode and every stage. I consider myself an above-average Tetris player and have only earned a single SS rank in my time with the game so far.
The $39.99 MSRP price point is a bit high for what some could dismiss as “just Tetris.” While the gameplay itself is largely similar to recent Tetris games there are the new modes for Tetris enthusiasts, the timeless gameplay and new music make it quite worthwhile in my eyes. For those with access to PSVR, the immersive visuals make it an easy recommendation.
Tetris Effect is available now on Playstation 4. This review is based on a copy purchased by the writer.