zophar53's Blog

Posted on Nov 4th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Tetris Effect, Tetris, preview, demo

Tetris Effect turns everyone's favorite puzzle game into an audio/visual feast

While everyone is losing their minds over the latest AAA game from Rockstar Games, Red Dead Redemption 2 (which I hope to play someday, once I get around to playing its predecessor), I'm playing something that couldn't be more different.

If you ask 100 people what the best game of all time is, you'll get at least 30 different answers. But while a "best game of all time" debate could go on forever, I would argue that Tetris is the answer that, while not everyone would choose, almost no one would think that answer to be crazy. It's been ported to every device capable of running it, and I'd bet money 90% of the civilized world has at least heard of it, even if they haven't played it personally. Tetris Effect is a new take on a tried-and-true formula. How does it stack up (pun absolutely intended)? Let's find out.

This new game comes from the mind of Tetsuya Mizuguchi. For those who don't know that name, he's the guy who created Lumines and REZ. That alone was enough to get me excited about his take on this old Russian puzzler. Most recently, he lent his talents to develop REZ Infinite for the PlayStation VR. Alas, I wasn't able to play that game, as I don't yet have a PSVR, but that should give you an idea of what to expect from Tetris Effect. Mizuguchi-san has clearly been thinking about music a lot lately, and he's taken that theme and applied it to Tetris, along with some progression elements to keep the player going.

The demo that's out now only has a few modes, but it hints at the wealth of content to come in the final product. The main mode is called Journey Mode, and it's a series of levels played out on a board that looks like a space-y version of the sphere grid from Final Fantasy X. This is a bit like the main mode in Lumines: Electronic Symphony. The stages each have a different color scheme, along with a different musical track and background visualization. The music and visuals work in tandem with the gameplay, with every move of a tetrimino adding a tiny something to the soundscape. It didn't take long for me to get into the zone. Tetris has always been one of those "zen-mode" games, and the addition of a mellow, deep house soundtrack and stimulating visualizations makes the game all the more engaging. As I did with Lumines: Electronic Symphony on the Vita, I was bobbing my head to the beat while my brain kept getting tricked into thinking my movements were adding to the music.

Feel free to judge my Tetris skills (or lack of) as you see fit

Where things really get interesting is in the Effect Modes. Here, you can see a worldview of everyone on your friend list and beyond, represented by dense starburst avatars. You are given an experience level-style progression system and work with the online community to contribute to periodic goals. If a collective challenge is completed, everyone gets a special avatar to use. There are only two effect modes available in the demo, but there's about 15 total, and while they can't be accessed, you can see their descriptions. They range from things like no death mode if you just want to chill out and play without pressure, to a Dr. Mario-style mode where you have to clear out a certain number of "dark blocks" by completing lines, to a more puzzle-specific mode where you are presented with an arrangement of blocks and have to figure out the correct way to place the three or four tetriminos you're given to clear them all from the board.

The two modes unlocked in the demo are a basic marathon mode where the goal is to get the highest score possible in the time it takes to complete 150 lines, and the main event mode, in which you play as long as possible while different random effects come into play. And these "effects" can be either very helpful or very panic-inducing. I'm not sure how many effects there are, but the handful I experienced proved that the developers were pretty clever and creative with their brainstorming. There are simple ones (not being able to use your banked tetrimino, not being able to see what piece is coming next) and stressful ones (turning the screen upside down and reversing the controls). It was a lot of fun, and made this already endlessly-replayable game even more so. This is a game both casual fans and full-on Tetris savants will be able to play for a long, long time.

Those red bombs will explode and put a massive hole in your meticulously crafted stack if you don't clear them fast enough

Some days you just can't get rid of a giant Z-piece (or 20 small ones)

The other new mechanic Tetris Effect brings to the well is Zone mode. On the lower left corner of the playing field is a zone meter. As you complete lines the meter will fill. When it fills all the way, you can hit L2 or R2 to "enter the zone." In the zone, time slows down and the tetriminos stop falling, which gives you a calm moment in which to make lines. Any lines you complete while in zone mode will not be cleared. Instead, they'll be moved to the bottom of the well and will build up as you complete lines. When the zone meter runs out time will go back to normal, the pieces will start falling again, and all the lines you've saved up will be cashed in as if you completed them all at one time. This both gives you a breather when in the midst of a tense Tetris session, and allows you to get 4, 8, or even 10 or more lines cleared in one moment. It's a cool and rewarding mechanic, and my only complaint with it is that I forgot it was there more often than I should have. But that's a me thing.

The integration of the visual effects in this level are particularly well done, and are surprisingly non-distracting

It's unfortunate I'm unable to try the VR portion of Tetris Effect, but this and REZ Infinite are the two biggest reasons I've had to buy a PSVR headset since it was launched. Once I get a bigger gaming space I think I'll have to take the plunge.

This demo is only available through Nov 5, so you still have a couple days left to try it. If you have any love for Tetris (aka if you're human) I highly recommend doing so. The full game will be released on Nov 9 on PSN and PSVR, and will cost $39.99 (PS Plus members get a 10% discount for pre-orders). I won't lie; forty dollars is a lot of money for Tetris. There's a segment of people who won't be up for that. But as someone who has a deep appreciation not just for music, but games that use music in clever ways to enhance the experience and add to the immersion, I'm very excited to play more. It takes a game I've been playing for 30 years and turns it into the kind of sensory experience I fall head over heels for. The addition of lots of new modes and an ongoing, online community progression system makes this a sizable package. If the full game delivers more of what the demo has in store, I'm confident I'll get much more than a $40 value. If you ever wanted Tetris gameplay with a Lumines-style presentation, join me in experiencing.....the Tetris Effect.

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My favorite game, one of my favorite developers, a new progression system, trippy visuals and perfect music, and PSVR support...

It's like a checklist for my video game desires. 

Played the demo a lot, clearing my gaming schedule after release...
@slackur: I look forward to comparing scores!
This looks so good. For some reason I want to hold off until I can play the VR version though and we only have a Vive at my house so I'm going to wait until either a PSVR falls into my lap or they port it to PC for me. Looks like so much fun.
@Crabmaster2000: I'm hoping the PSVR goes on sale for black friday. If so, I'll probably pick one up. Also, a Limited Run Games physical release would be fantastic. I'm crossing my fingers.
@zophar53:Do you mean a physical copy of Tetris Effect? It already has a physical release coming Friday, you can reserve it through Amazon and GameStop (and elsewhere). Had mine reserved for at least a week or two. Cheesy
@slackur: Whaaa!?!? I didn't know that! Oh man, heading to reserve a copy right now.
I reserved this game at my local library. I'm ready for more Tetris!

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