It’s not often I get to review a version of a game almost as old as I am. First playable in 1984, Tetris is the Russian grandfather of video game puzzlers, and there are likely more versions of it than there are Kardashians. The latest version, Tetris Effect, brought to us by Japanese developer Resonair, mixes the tried and true gameplay of Tetris with some amazing visuals and music, and while it doesn’t necessarily turn the world upside down, it’s Tetris, so it doesn’t really have to.
Because every game has the potential to be someone’s first game, we’ll recap what Tetris is quickly and move on from there. A puzzle game where special shapes called Tetriminos drop from the top of the screen to the bottom, the goal of Tetris is take those shapes and complete lines. In a standard game of Tetris, the more lines you complete, the faster the blocks drop. Eventually, they either drop so fast that you fail or you’re on stage at a Games Done Quick playing Tetris: The Grand Master with KevinDDR.
Regardless of how good you are at Tetris, Tetris Effect takes the base game and gives it an extra level of polish. The game opens with two modes, Journey and Effect. Journey groups different backgrounds together to form a cohesive set of images, all while mixing some really incredible particle effects with music. Each background matches up with a specific Tetris level, with the Tetriminos themselves also themed accordingly. The speed of each level mixes with the visuals and music, some levels present a relaxing trip through the ocean, with light particle dolphins swimming across the background, while another, this one built around fire, crescendos with a pulsing beat while blocks literally try to beat each other down the screen they’re going so fast.
At times, focusing on playing Tetris was almost impossible, and I can only imagine what these scenes would look like playing in PSVR. However, the more I played, adjusting to the groove of the music and readying myself for the coming visual spectacle, the easier the often swift changes were to deal with. For those super tough times, I could engage Zone play, whereby the pieces stopped dropping from the top of the screen, hovering in the air as I chose where to place them. With Zone play active, any lines completed are collected at the bottom of the stage, clearing out at the end of the timer for bonus points. More lines cleared also earn increasingly ridiculous names, like a decahexatris for 16 lines, or an Ultimatris for 20. Also, full disclosure, I had to look those up, because there was no way I was ever getting 16 lines at once to verify.
Effect is the second mode available from the title screen, and this serves as more of a Tetris hub then anything else. Displayed over a globe that allows you to see and interact with people on your friends list who may also be playing Tetris Effect, Effect mode offers a variety of play types to engage with. Choices range from a classic endless mode, set to whatever background you like, to more structured timed modes that require you to see how many lines you can complete in 3 minutes. Should you feel like challenging the very best, Effect offers a Master mode, where, at the very first level of speed, blocks don’t drop as much as simply appear at the bottom of the level.
While mileage may vary based on how much Tetris you actually want to play, the visual and audio spectacle on display is top notch. I know I have mentioned it before, but the particles flying around the screen, whether they are forming actual shapes or just flying to and fro in time with the music, come at you with such power and color that it can absolutely overwhelm the senses. I can easily see myself turning this on when friends come over just for the light show, though I imagine watching someone else trying to play Tetris during the visual assault would be just as entertaining.
In the end though, Tetris Effect is simply Tetris, just with a visual upgrade that has to be seen to be believed. The game itself is damn near perfect, and while one could argue as to whether or not they enjoy Tetris, there’s nary a criticism I levy against what could easily be called one of the greatest games of all time. Tetris Effect, as a Tetris delivery system, also does what it does very well, making this the version you simply must own if you must own a version. I mean, it’s Tetris. What the hell else is there to say.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!