Tetris Effect: Connected Review

Perfectris.

There’s something primal, something insanely emotional and personal, about Tetris Effect. When I originally awarded Tetris Effect 10/10 on PSVR and called it a “game of the generation” many people sneered. The comments across each social media platform were the same; everybody laughed and said “it’s just Tetris.” Everybody, that is, except those that had actually played it. With the benefit of time and the ability to, you know, play the game, the world discovered just how powerful the Tetris Effect is. Now that it’s arrived on Xbox with multiplayer in tow, the effect is only growing stronger.

There is a nugget of truth to it being “just Tetris”, if only that it has to be Tetris in order for any of this to make sense. Designed by Alexey Pajitnov some thirty-six years ago, the fundamentals have not changed, and they do not need to, as Tetris is still one of the best games ever created.

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Tetris Effect takes in elements of the previous years of Tetris development and wraps them in one of the most incredible audio-visual skins that gaming has ever served to us. If you want to see the evolutionary trail that leads to Tetris Effect you simply have to follow designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s career path, taking in Space Channel 5, Rez, Child of Eden and Lumines. All roads lead to Tetris Effect, the culmination of two decades of mercurial game design. We shouldn’t have expected anything less.

Tetris Effect: Connected finally brings the game to the Xbox platform, appearing for the launch of the Xbox Series X and coming with the gloriously sharp 4K Tetrominos that PS4 Pro owners have been cutting their eyeballs with for years. Of course, what the transition has lost is VR support, and it shouldn’t be underestimated just how life-changing Tetris Effect is when you are ensconced within it.

The best I can recommend is sitting on the floor about two feet from the screen, cranking those headphones up and running the lights down real low. It will do, but I wonder how much of my own emotional response has been programmed in by playing in VR, and whether someone coming to the game on Xbox will have quite the same reaction. I hope they do.

Xbox players do get the first taste of Tetris Effect multiplayer though, and it’s been worth the wait. Other platforms will have to hold out for another six months, so I guess that some balance has been brought to the Tetris Effect multiverse. That feels like a very Mizuguchi thing to do, even if it’s more likely it was some suits in a boardroom.

Multiplayer has two distinct ranking systems. Your Tier is your overall ability and experience level, and that’s based on your average Skill Rating across all of Tetris Effect’s modes. As you’d hopefully expect, it goes up when you win Ranked Matches, and down when you lose. If you’re more about the taking part than the winning,  then you will still increase your skill rating no matter what you’re doing, but it’s going to be much slower than being a winner.

At the centre of Tetris Effect’s multiplayer modes is the Tetrimidion, and as you progress up the Tiers you’ll come ever closer to what the game describes as “a wondrous sanctuary that only the most worthy may enter.” Whatever that might mean.

As you’d hope you can choose between ultra-serious Ranked Matches, playful Friend Matches and even – whisper it – Local Matches that you can play with the real people in your home. Can you imagine?

As you’d expect from Tetris Effect, it’s not simply a straightforward ‘put the blocks in the slots’ type affair here, or at least, not entirely. Connected is a unique take on the formula and sees you form a three-player team with other players who then have to work together to defeat AI-controlled bosses. At points your three screens join together to form an immense wall of Tetronimos that can cause equally massive damage.

You have to work together at these points, taking turns to fill in the gaps, and in local play especially it just works incredibly well. You shout at your partners “over here!” and point excitedly towards a little gap, or huff and puff when they fill in the spot you had your Tetronimos all set to drop into. Co-operative Tetris shouldn’t work, but just like with VR, Mizuguchi has found a way.

Remember I said it wasn’t all straightforward Tetris-ing? Well, the rest of the modes are far more traditional, including the central Zone Battle. This is a pure one-on-one competition played with the standard Tetris Effect rules that you’ve hopefully learned through the single player campaign. You drop Tetronimos on your opponent by making line attacks. Score Attack is very similar, though it’s purely your score against theirs, and there’s none of the horror of them dropping extra blocks on you at an inopportune moment.

If you’re feeling nostalgic, the final multiplayer mode is Classic Score Attack, which removes all of the niceties that years of Tetris development have brought. There’s no Hold Queue, no Hard Drop, no quick Lock Down, no… anything that wasn’t in the Game Boy version. It’s a short, sharp shock after you’ve been playing Tetris Effect for any length of time, but it’s actuality quite freeing. This is Tetris at its most stripped back, and in a multiplayer setting there’s nothing here to save you.

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Summary
Perhaps not quite as transcendental as it is in VR, Tetris Effect: Connected remains an incredible, visionary piece of work, that you can now experience with others. With its arrival on Xbox Series X, it can be a game for a new generation.
Good
  • Journey mode is a trip worth taking a thousand times
  • One of the best audio-visual experiences ever created
  • Connected is a perfect Tetris Effect multiplayer mode
Bad
  • VR is still the absolute best way to experience it
10
Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.

5 Comments

  1. Surely it needs to lost a couple of points for the timed-exclusive bollocks. Worse than the normal timed-exclusive nonsense. You’ve already given us your money? Back of the line for the update, suckers.

    And the slightly suspicious removing of features from the PS4 version when they announced the XBox version. Which is entirely a coincidence, and “due to contractual reasons, honest”.

    Actually, it may well be a coincidence. You can’t stream the XBox version either. Looks like The Tetris Company realised the PS4 let you stream it when the XBox version was announced and decided nobody was allowed to do that and the PS4 version had an update to remove the remote play option. I guess when you’ve spent 30+ years doing nothing but licensing Tetris, you’ve got to be strict about these things.

    But you’re right about VR being the best way to play. Without VR, it’s just Tetris with some nice graphics and terrible music. In VR, it’s 3 hours of Tetris with some nice graphics and terrible music and how is that the time already???

    • I feel like we’ve been here before!

      • Given the state of this year, could anyone tell? Time has lost all meaning. “Before” could mean “now”, or “next Tuesday”.

        Which is pretty much the same effect you get from playing Tetris in VR.

        But yes, I’m sure I’ve made my thoughts on Tetris Effect clear before. It’s a great game, especially in VR, but it really is just Tetris with terrible music. Which is mostly fine, as Tetris is one of the most perfect games ever.

        It’s just that for us old people, we can remember the days when you could get exactly the same experience as this new fangled Tetris Effect game by playing it on a Game Boy while someone shines a bunch of torches in your face and throws a cutlery draw down the stairs. ;)

      • I must applaud you on the best analogy for Tetris Effect that I have ever heard. But, I feel we must agree to disagree, since not only do you not have to pick said cutlery back up off the floor, the Xbox Series X pad only uses 2xAA batteries, and your friends can put the torches down and play the game with you. This is progress.

      • Not progress if all your friends can’t play with you because of the timed exclusive bollocks, is it?

        And I can’t entirely take responsibility for that analogy either. It was some random description on the internet of the band The Wedding Present (still going after 35 years, somehow) as sounding like “someone throwing a cutlery draw down the stairs while your maths teacher moans about his girlfriend”. Clearly it’s the maths teacher bit that makes the difference ;)

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