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Tetris Effect

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Enhance Games
Developer: Resonair (EU), Monstars Inc. (US)
Release Date: Nov. 10, 2020

About Chris Barnes

There's few things I'd sell my soul to the devil for. However, the ability to grow a solid moustache? I'd probably sign that contract ... maybe ... (definitely).


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Xbox Series X Review - 'Tetris Effect: Connected'

by Chris Barnes on Dec. 16, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Tetris Effect: Connected is the ultimate incarnation of Tetris Effect, adding an all-new multiplayer expansion to the single-player modes.

Never in a million years did I think the latest Tetris release would be my go-to game on a new, next-gen system. While the Xbox Series consoles are missing any notable first-party exclusives in the launch lineup, that shouldn't take away from the simple fact that Tetris Effect: Connected is awesome. Led by designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi and developer Resonair, Tetris Effect: Connected is an updated version of the critically acclaimed Tetris Effect, which was released for PSVR and PC in 2018. In addition to the core Journey mode, this iteration features the titular cooperative multiplayer Connected mode and a competitive mode that implements classic Tetris mechanics.

Without a PSVR headset, I never got around to playing the original release of Tetris Effect. It felt like a VR-centric game that would've lost any charm when played on a base PS4. With the release of the Series X, I was willing to give every launch game a shot, and I was glad that I gave this game a chance. While playing through the single-player Journey mode, I never felt like something was missing with the lack of VR support on Xbox. In the tensest moments, I rarely thought about anything other than the next tetromino that was ready to drop.

While Tetris has always evoked resonating effects on the mind both during and after play (as the term "Tetris effect" aptly implies), the Journey mode in Tetris Effect totally absorbs you in its gameplay. Journey mode is broken down into five areas, with each area containing five levels. You'll play through a number of Tetris matrices that each feature unique music, audio cues, and visuals. The addicting simplicity of the series' gameplay remains intact, but the music and visuals make for a cohesive presentation that totally envelops you in the Tetris world. Audio cues trigger when rotating tetrominos. Drum slaps pop off when you clear a line. Every action you take organically blends into the orchestral experience that surrounds the level. As the speed of the dropping tetrominos increases, so does the music's tempo.

The same is true for the visuals surrounding the Tetris matrix. A simple, mellow dolphin swimming by on the side of the screen may be jumping around by the end of the level. Then, just as you're starting to sweat from the breakneck speeds, the tune ends, the visuals fade, and you get a momentary breather before seamlessly transitioning into the next level in Journey mode. It'd be easy for someone to write off this game at a glance. The fundamental gameplay is just Tetris, but it's an experience that I've jumped back into, time and time again when I'm seeking distance from the outside world. Every time I boot up Journey mode, all of my worries drown away, and within seconds, it's just me, the music, some dolphins, and falling tetrominos. After completing Journey mode, you can return to play through all of the levels in a single run (without losing) to try to attain the highest possible score.

For those looking for a more core Tetris experience, Tetris Effect: Connected offers additional modes to enjoy. There's a myriad of single-player modes with different rule sets to master. These range from classic modes, like clearing 150 lines to more experimental modes, like Mystery, where in-game modifiers can seriously throw off your game plan. While I enjoyed dabbling in these modes, I often returned to Journey mode — partly to beat my previous high score and partly to experience the fantastic music.

As the name implies, Tetris Effect: Connected introduces a new cooperative multiplayer mode that is quite enjoyable. You and three other players start clearing lines like a normal Tetris game, while an AI-controlled boss is off to the side, dropping tetrominos. As the game goes on, the boss introduces modifiers to impact your gameplay, such as adding blocks to your matrix and preventing you from holding tetrominos to the side for a future move. As the game progresses and the music tempo picks up, all of the player-controller matrices combine into one massive, shared table. You must work together as a team to clear as many lines as possible during this temporary shared state. When the timer ends, all of your shared line clears are permanently added to the boss's table. This loop continues until you can fill up the boss's matrix with tetrominos. There are some nitpicks, such as when it's unclear whose turn it is to drop a tetromino. When everyone synchronizes their thoughts and begins dropping pieces as if it's one coherent player thinking three steps ahead at a time, this mode is absolutely brilliant.

In addition to the new Connected mode, there are a handful of other multiplayer modes that are more in line with what's expected of multiplayer Tetris. New to Tetris Effect: Connected is Classic mode, which leverages classic NES rules for those seeking a retro Tetris experience. You don't appreciate the modern gameplay mechanics, like hard drops and relaxed piece rotations, until you no longer have access to them. To evoke the NES experience, the visuals and sounds also match the original NES iteration.

For those seeking a more modern Tetris experience, the game has a handful of other multiplayer modes that incorporate Tetris mechanics from modern releases, including Score Attack and Zone modes. The game doesn't do enough to ease newcomers into these modern modes, though. With little more than a few lines of text and video snippets to explain the rules, players can learn enough to get started but not to be competitive. As a result, I resorted to YouTube for more in-depth strategies and advice to improve in these modes — a clear indicator that I'm enjoying my time with the game.

With all of this in mind, it is worth noting that at the time of this review, it was not easy to find matches for all modes. I was always able to find a couple of players after waiting in the lobby for a couple of minutes, but that doesn't bode well for a game that just launched on Xbox consoles and is available to Game Pass subscribers. That's ultimately a minor concern because players can also enjoy these modes through local multiplayer against friends or AI-controlled bots.

I may be done with this review, but I'm not done with Tetris Effect: Connected. I may not be seeing tetrominos during my day job, but I do have a newfound obsession with Tetris. Since starting this game, I've gone down YouTube rabbit holes learning about t-spins, tips, and tricks to improve my Tetris game. I've replayed modes to beat my previous high score, which I don't normally do in games. Even after this review, I'm eager to jump back into Journey mode to hear some of my favorite songs before booting up another title. As an added bonus, the multiplayer options make for a solid package that should offer players tons of hours of Tetris.

Score: 8.5/10

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