Tetris Effect (2019)
There are only a few perfect video games, and Tetris is one of those. I have played a lot of Tetris over the years, starting with the Game Boy version and falling in love with the NES’s color palette during my days modding and testing out emulators. With Tetris Effect finally hitting PC and the VR option coming to Oculus and Steam VR, I couldn’t wait to get immersed in the world of Tetriminos.
Honestly, with Tetris Effect, it is nothing new. It’s Tetris at its core and has some nice visuals and musical elements, but it’s a very enjoyable Tetris game, and not much else. Since Tetris has gone through changes to its official rules, some might not know that you can hold one block at a time, or do infinite spins that will allow you to plan out more while dealing with crazy fast falling blocks.
The graphics are the main attention grabber for this game, and the special background effects, which are mostly particle effects that swirl and float around, reacting to the blocks being dropped are beautiful. But being focused on the actual game really doesn’t allow you to see any of it. It’s more eye candy for the people watching you play. Sometimes it can become a distraction and caused my eyes to wander away from the play screen to look at the jumping dolphins and made me mess up several easy line clears.
The music is a combination of ambiance and a light smattering of world music mixed with some EDM with wispy vocals. It’s really well done and the sound effects as well really do play into the zoned out zen state that the game tries to replicate. The levels are themed and even the blocks change shape and color depending on the level to fit an overall theme and it all flows together very well. One level in particular is gorgeously rendered with pink lotus leaves in a Zen Garden theme, while the music I can only classify as “hauntingly beautiful” plays in the background. When this game is working on all cylinders, it really does evoke emotions and I will admit to tearing up to this absolutely breaktaking music.
The option to play the game in VR was really the main reason I bought this game. Hoping to lose myself in the world of Tetris for hours at a time just seems perfect. For me, Tetris is one of my all time relaxing “chill out” games. I can throw Tetris on and just zone out and play for large stretches of time without even noticing. And that’s exactly what happened with Tetris Effect in VR. I spent the first 3 hours of the game in VR and didn’t even realize it.
There are two main components to the game, Journey Mode which is basically the “Story/Campaign mode” and then Effect Mode, which is the free play and special modes rolled into one. Story mode took around maybe 2ish hours to complete. Each level has a requirement of a certain amount of lines to be cleared before moving on to the next one. With progression, the music speeds up and the blocks fall faster. The music also changes tempo and pace and in certain aspects, the block speed will change with the tempo of the music. It threw me off a few times, but I was able to recover quickly enough.
The Effect Mode has about 10 different options to choose from, ranging from High Score with a time limit, to Marathon to Mystery Mode. Mystery Mode with throw random effects at you in intervals and you have to deal with them accordingly. I had a few such as mirroring or inverting the screen. Creating large blocks or not allowing you to swap blocks out on the fly.
The game, on normal difficulty was quite easy and I only failed one level out of the 30 or so that are in the main game. I guess when the Nintendo version told me I was a Tetris Master, it really meant it.
Tetris Effect is by no means the end all be all of Tetris games, but it’s definitely the best looking and sounding one. Playing in VR is a special experience, but isn’t required to enjoy the game. This is a solid Tetris game through and through and VR only enhances the joy of plaything this game, without relying on it to make it good. Sit back and immerse yourself in the trippy visuals and the overwhelming soundtrack that is unlike any other Tetris game you have encountered and be prepared to see falling blocks in your sleep, also commonly referred to as “The Tetris Effect”