In 1984 the world was introduced to a game that would change the puzzle game landscape for decades to come. Alexey Pajitnov had no idea that his little office project would take off as it did and 34 years later one of the most mesmerising developers on the face of the planet has decided to give it a new and interesting spin. The only question is – does it leave a lasting effect?
You should be no stranger to Tetsuya Mizuguchi. He’s after all the person who brought us the delightful experiences of Rez, Lumines and Child of Eden. His vibrant style of combining music and abstract visuals made him one of the very few people in the industry to grasp what makes a rhythm game so addictive. As soon as you start the game up his influence is plain for all to see. Everything from the menu design, through to the use of an expanded colour palette and his trademark beats will feel right at home. In fact, some levels (both in terms of audio and visual) reminded me very much of my Lumines experience in the past. Somehow he’s brought what worked there and integrated it into the world of Tetris.
Block Rocking Beats
In case you never knew, those Tetris blocks have a name – Tetriminos. These inconic Tetriminos shapes ultimately transform into blocks as soon as you put it in place. The aim, as any Tetris before this, is to create a solid line of blocks that disappear once it activates. Should your blocks reach the top it’s game over. It’s that simple mechanic that’s made it such a success over the years. Blocks can still be turned to place them in the right position and you can soft drop it by pressing down or hard drop it by pushing up on the D-Pad. As with more recent Tetris games the L1 button functions as a way of holding on to an important block that can be swapped out when you need it. Generally most Tetris players will hold on to the straight Tetriminos to score the maximum points by clearing four lines at a time. Score back-to-back Tetris’ and you’ll receive a nifty score boost. So, those are the basic functions we expect in any game of Tetris. What’s new? The Zone System.
The Twilight Zone
To the left of your playing field, you’ll see something called the Zone Meter. Fill that meter, by clearing lines, and then press one of the trigger buttons. Tetriminos will stop dropping from the top and it’s up to you to clear as many lines as you can within a limited time. Once the zone meter runs out you’ll have all the lines you accumulated vanishing and score a much-deserved bonus score. Your first introduction will take place in The Journey, which is its campaign mode. There are three difficulty options to choose from (easy, normal and hard) and in total, you’ll play through 27 themes. Each of these themes oozes with Mizuguchi influence. It’s absolutely stunning seeing the abstract visuals unfold in front of you in tandem with the music. As you reach your line number requirement the tempo moves up a notch, along with the visuals dove-tailing with what you’re hearing. As with Rez, another controller can be synced, so that you have one controller vibrating to the gameplay and the other responding to music tempo. Where you place that second controller is up to you, but I placed it on my leg and it felt.. soothing. It’s pure digital art and a joy to play. There is, unfortunately, a slight hiccup or two that just can’t be ignored.
Tetris Effect’s campaign mode is not going to last you much more than 1.5 hours.
Tetris Effect’s campaign mode is not going to last you much more than 1.5 hours. I played all that was there on normal and once done there was only one mode left to test out and that was Effects mode. Effects mode comes with the various mini-game modes you would expect from a Tetris game these days – Marathon mode, Quickplay, All clear, Target, Sprint and a few others. The standout mode for me was Mystery. The game throws random effects your way to disrupt your flow and it could be anything from pulling the screen towards you, so the Tetriminos are really large, to bombs that explode if you don’t clear it quick enough, leaving a big gaping hole in your perfect block building style. Receiving an SS ranking is the highest you can earn and it pushes you to take on the online leaderboard. Unfortunately, the online leaderboard is as ‘mulitplayer’ as it gets.
The Z blocks are annoying, but so is this
In an age where there are numerous fantastic multiplayer Tetris games, this feels like a complete oversight. You can’t even take part in local multiplayer games. It is strictly a single-player only game and if you have an afternoon you’ll fly through everything that’s on offer in just over three hours. Should you stick around to challenge the online leaderboards you’ll gradually unlock extras such as new songs and avatars by levelling up. But other than that there is absolutely no reason to return to Tetris Effect for a third and fourth helping. It’s a little depressing seeing your avatar floating online with the many other players around the world, which you have absolutely no contact with in any form.
Tetris Effect is filled with the typical Mizuguchi template we’ve come to expect. The short time you’ll spend with the game is going to linger for a while, but it’s not as memorable as his previous classics. The new Zone system isn’t quite as special as it was made out to be and at the end, you have your typical game of Tetris enhanced with a brilliant soundtrack and something that’ll make your HDR TV or PSVR shine. Unfortunately, the effect is short-lived.