Tetris Effect – A Stunning New Take on a Beloved Classic
Platform: Playstation 4 (VR enabled)
Release Date: 9th of November 2018
Publisher: Enhance Games
Developers: Resonair, Monstars.
When I mention Tetris, many of us have memories of the Gameboy interpretation. This was a classic title which launched the popular handheld system and became a compulsively addictive puzzle game. Over the years there have been many interpretations of Tetris and most have encountered a sense of indifference from the gaming community. That is, until Tetris Effect, Tetris Effect takes the unemotional, cold game mechanic of flipping blocks to a whole new sensory level. Taking the original concept and improving upon it by injecting a feeling of joy, connection and audiovisual euphoria. Tetris Effect proves that gaming is at it’s most addictive and compelling when developers consciously inject real emotion into the game mechanics.
I began my emotional trek in the campaign mode entitled ‘Journey’. The co-developers, Monstars and Resonair set rounds of Tetris against gorgeous backdrops, pumping song tunes and stunning visual effects. Players begin their journey in the depths of the sea, encountering whales an schools of fish comprised of glittering particles. These visual spectacles orbit the Tetris playing field, never distracting but always enthralling. These themes progress to cityscapes, deserts and deep space, there’s a sense of anticipation which permeates reaching each new stage and a sense of discovery as each new theme unfolds. The audio operates in tandem with the visuals, the game controller throbbing in time with the beats. As you progress and clear lines on the playing field, fireworks herald your triumph and you begin to influence the soundtrack. Adding more beats and musical motifs with each well judged move and line cleared. This title is a complete sensory experience, engaging the audio – visual centres of the brain while providing intellectual stimulation and satisfaction.
The puzzle elements of the game are similar to that of the original visionary programmer Alexey Pajitnov crafted in 1984. Tetris Effect does add some new layers to the familiar strategy, the most notable is called ‘the Zone’. As I cleared lines, a meter called ‘Zone’ began to fill up, this filled up faster as I chained line removals. It’s part of a high scoring mechanic, triggering the Zone makes it easier to clear lines. Time stops while you move pieces and you receive bonus points for each line or series of lines that you clear while you are in the Zone. I found it a satisfying addition to the Tetris formula.
The Journey takes a few hours to finish but the experience that it provides will stay with you and as some gamers are finding can haunt your dreams. Blocks change forms throughout the levels into gears and other vaguely esoteric forms such as the crystals from chandeliers. This helps a fundamentally repetitive game seem less so, the audio effects deserve further mention with this regard. Each level genuinely seems like a new experience, some stages produce clunking and clicking sounds as you fit blocks together other evoke jazz piano chords. It’s a form of constant discovery and exploration and it’s surprising that I am using these terms in the context of a Tetris game.
As well as the Journey mode there is also the Effect mode, this features a series of different puzzle modes that include traditional scoring modes (Marathon, Sprint, etc) to more experimental ones. The strangest and most intriguing is the Mystery mode, during which the playing field can flip upside down and helpful visual clues can disappear. These variety of gameplay modes help extend the lifetime of the game and keep the player captivated.
I can’t recommend this game highly enough, it goes past basic nostalgia and achieves something novel. The package makes anachronistic game design feel fresh again by combing the elements which made Tetris great and a soothing, beautiful audio visual masterpiece. This game is a treat, especially if you use the VR mode, finding yourself immersed by fireworks and the ocean environment is a wonderful experience. Don’t be put off by the hefty price tag, this is a game which you will return to time and time again, long after the triple AAA titles in your library have been completed.
This game is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher