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March 2024

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: Aug. 17, 2021


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PC VR Review - 'Tetris Effect: Connected'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 2, 2021 @ 1:53 a.m. PST

Tetris Effect is the next evolution in the long-running puzzle franchise, surrounding you with fantastic, fully three-dimensional worlds that react and evolve based on how you play.

Buy Tetris Effect: Connected

Tetris is perhaps one of the better-known video games out there. Unless you're very young or haven't been exposed to any puzzle games, you know how the mechanics work. We've seen some official iterations go for something different, such as crossovers like Puyo Puyo Tetris and big multiplayer sessions like Tetris 99, both of which have resulted in excellent experiences. Tetris Effect was something else altogether. The puzzle element was still excellent, but the experience looked awesome on a regular screen and was spectacular in VR if you had the equipment. Tetris Effect: Connected can be considered the director's cut of the game, as it contains the same core experience but adds multiplayer to the mix.

Tetris Effect is a version of the game with a more modern rule set. You have a hold box that lets you save a piece for later, so you can swap it out when the time is right or when you're dealt a piece that you don't see an immediate spot for. The instant drop mechanic is also present, so you won't wait a bit for a piece to slowly make its way down the screen. You're also given some leeway when it comes to piece placement, so unless you're doing instant drops or are running at full speed, you still have a second or two to rotate or shift the piece before it is locked in. The new mechanic is Zone. As you're completing lines, a meter begins to fill, and once it does, you can tap on a button to place yourself in the zone. Lines created during this state don't immediately disappear, so you have a chance to complete line after line until the zone timer expires, ultimately giving you double-digit line clears if everything plays out in your favor.

The main draw is the landscapes. Unlike most other versions of Tetris, Connected presents the playfield in a much smaller scale. The dimensions of the playfield haven't changed, but it's as if the camera has been pulled back to place all of the important information in the center of the screen, so you don't need to shift your eyes much to get the info you need. The rest of the screen space is filled with backdrops that react to your play, such as a sky filled with hot air balloons or dolphins swimming and jumping around. Taking a page from games like Rez and Lumines, the pieces produce their own sound effects that complement the music, and the backgrounds also react to the tune. Given the smaller playfield, players can see more of this happening instead of having to ignore it all, but spectators will benefit by seeing all of this in concert.

If you are using a VR headset, then the game becomes jaw-dropping. The playfield is bigger, but so are the environments, and the technology does a wonderful job of placing you more into those worlds. It is easy to get lost in it all, but one thing that will drag you out are the controls. The game doesn't use motion controls, but the analog sticks are simply too sensitive, so you'll make many errant drops and bad piece placements. In this case, playing with a gamepad or a keyboard is preferable if you want to don a headset instead of using a TV or monitor.

There are three main modes for players to check out, with Journey acting as the game's campaign. There's no real story, only a set of stages clumped together where you complete a specific number of lines in each one before moving on. The variety of the stages is what you'll marvel at, and the finale gives you the chance to feel a greater sense of awe, but the mode is short , so you'll be able to knock it out in an afternoon.

Effects is where you'll spend most of your solo time, as this contains a plethora of modes that one would expect from a puzzle game. You have the standard assortment like Endless; Marathon, where you need to clear 150 lines; Time Attack; and more. Some of the more interesting modes include going through stages clumped together by a single theme, and Mystery, where randomized effects provide chaos, like having giant tetriminos appear, bombs blow up parts of the level, or reversed controls while the screen is flipped upside-down. Each mode comes with an online leaderboard, which is enough reason to keep coming back for "one more game."

Multiplayer is the last major mode and the one thing that wasn't available when the game initially launched on the PS4 and PC. Whether you're battling online or locally, there are four modes. Zone Battle is what you experience playing solo, so adept use of the zone mechanic ensures that you'll deliver big pushes against the opponent to make things more frantic. Score Attack takes away the ability to attack players, as it becomes a simple race to get more points or survive longer than the opposition. Classic Score Attack runs along those same principles but takes away the newer mechanics, like a holding bin and instant drop. It can frustrate those who are used to the new mechanics, but it's a godsend for those who grew up on the more classic style because it evens the playing field.

The main attraction for multiplayer is Connected mode, which sees three players teaming up to take down an AI boss or another player during weekends when the rare variant is unlocked for play. Initially, all three players have their own playfields, while any boss matches cause them to get some side effects, like having a giant piece drop from the sky or disabling instant drop for a short while. Completing a line fills up a meter, and once enough of that meter is filled, all three fields are combined into a giant one where each player gets to drop a piece of their own. It seems chaotic until you realize that your turn is indicated by a spotlight, but your spotlight color can change. During this field fusion, the game is treated like you all entered the zone, so the main objective is building up enough lines to force the enemy to the top. The experience is awesome even if you're playing with those who aren't so adept at Tetris, since you can carry that player and ensure everyone has fun.

One advantage of playing the game now as opposed is the presence of cross-play mode. Although there aren't a ton of people playing the game at all hours of the day, there's enough that you should get into the versus modes without any trouble. Lag is nonexistent, but the absence of an unranked mode might be a reason for the lack of casual players.

Tetris Effect: Connected is excellent. For many, this is an audio/video experience that is a piece of art and easy to digest because the game is so easy to pick up and play. The various single-player experiences provide something to players who are looking for more than just high scores, and while the multiplayer isn't as frantic as Tetris 99, it is still something that one can return to countless times. Even if you aren't lucky enough to view this in VR, Tetris Effect is still well worth experiencing.

Score: 9.0/10

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