Tetsuya Mizuguchi offers an updated version of the acclaimed Tetris Effect, with lots of news and surprises for fans of the famous Russian puzzle game.
Tetris Effect, the latest gem from genius Tetsuya Mizuguchi, is a masterful lesson on how to take a timeless – and in some ways untouchable – classic and make it current, modern, fresh, even more than 30 years after its debut. Not that Alexei Leonidovi Pazitnov’s masterpiece needed any changes: it was and always has been essentially perfect, with its simple yet so effective gameplay, straight to the point, no frills. Randomly shaped blocks that rain down from above, to be stacked neatly, until they line up and disappear: nothing more, nothing less.
Tetris Effect added intriguing dynamics to this minimalist formula, aimed at making it more challenging and satisfying, in the embrace of a multisensory experience in which the gameplay is transformed into a real musical instrument, given its being one with the soundtrack, different for each level and influenced by the player’s moves. If Lumines, another jewel of the Japanese designer, was the unrecognized stepson of Tetris, with the obtaining of the official license Mizuguchi was finally able to return to the source, but bringing with him a baggage made of unique works of their kind (Child of Eden, Space Channel 5, but above all a certain Rez). After having fried the synapses on PS4 and in VR, Tetris Connect then reaches the shores of Microsoft as one of the launch games of the Xbox Series X / S (but also on PC and One, the reference platform for our test), enriched for the opportunity with a multiplayer mode that, as evidenced by the new name, connects players to each other to fight a threat from outer space.
Before going into the news, we invite you to read the review of Tetris Effect to learn more about the rich package offered, and we also point out that the “Connected” content will also arrive on PS4 and PC (Epic Games Store) next summer.
A journey through the tetramines
As written a few lines above, Tetris has never seriously needed structural changes, despite its formula has been revived in all sauces since its release, in official and unofficial ways.
Yet the arrival of Tetris Effect reminded us how beautiful it is to pulverize millions of tetrominoes, with the contribution of playful additions capable of making the experience even more fun: in the main mode, “Journey”, we find ourselves exploring a galaxy, composed of constellations in turn divided into levels, all with the same basic gameplay. However, there are some interesting twists, like a certain number of lines to be eliminated in one go to satisfy an objective, or the Zone, a real power-up to load one combo after another, to then freeze the time, maximize the points obtained and save yourself your skin when things don’t go your way. In addition to several improvements related to the “quality of life” of the players, some of which are borrowed from the modern variant of Tetris, Mizuguchi has added an extra touch of strategy to the recipe which, combined with a “controlled” and variable scrolling speed, makes the overall experience is even more electrifying and engaging.
However, the main strength of this version remains its artistic sector, with a mixture of images, graphic effects, explosions of colors and music (the latter harmonized with the movements of the tetrominoes themselves) able to stem the inevitable feeling of repetitiveness that, in the very long, such gameplay is likely to trigger. Moreover, although it was also playable in a traditional way, it was in VR that the Japanese designer’s vision gave its best, and it was there that it reached its qualitative apex, beyond the excellent intuitions on the playful front.
In addition to the “Journey” campaign, the title offers a whole series of more curious and experimental additional modes, able to extend its already remarkable longevity indefinitely.
A package divided into different “moods” to choose according to your mood, which hosts reflex and speed challenges for the most hardcore users (like Sprint, with its 40 lines to be eliminated in the shortest possible time), or modes perfect for sessions of pure relaxation, such as marathons without game over in which you choose the maximum limit (up to a maximum of 600), reduce speed to a minimum and enjoy the view, selecting between tracks and levels unlocked in Journey.
A very rich offer, in short, that allowed Mizuguchi to go at full speed, and for players to enjoy intriguing reinterpretations of the original concept. The online rankings of the Effect mode, combined with the “Weekly Rituals” (real events to which all players can contribute to completion), were already a splendid way to connect with other members of the community, but there was a lack of something.
United against cosmic evil
With the debut of the Connected version, Tetris Effect therefore gains a real multiplayer mode, both competitive and cooperative, which further expands the content proposal by bringing longevity to unexpected peaks.
Enhance and the development teams it relied on (Monstars Inc., Resonair, Stage Games) even have built a new plot around the mode, which sees a mysterious invader turn the universe upside down and corrupt the 12 constellations, with the zodiac signs transformed into treacherous bosses to defeat. As a Guardian, we will have to accumulate successes in ranked matches, rank up in the Division and reach the mysterious obelisk in the center of the galaxy, the Tetrimidion, to discover what is hidden inside.
A simple but effective idea, even more particular if you imagine it applied to a game like Tetris. The core of the experience, however, remains the new modes created by the development team, fewer than in Effect, but with a “human component” that helps compensate in terms of variety. In total there are 4, and the most popular are the two types of scoring challenges, one with modern rules (therefore with the possibility of temporarily setting aside a tetromino and reusing it at the right time) and a classic one. Both are very crowded, and matches require matchmaking times close to zero.
The Zone Battle is always a 1vs1 challenge, but with the Tetris Effect Zone mechanics to give a further touch of strategy to each duel, the winner of which is decreed after two consecutive victories. In this mode, the lines eliminated in their own half contribute to filling an opponent’s bar, who will then find himself having to manage an increased number of blocks, in a game of balance that feeds galvanizing and no holds barred clashes.
The highlight, however, is undoubtedly the Connected mode, in which three players must collaborate with each other and challenge fearsome bosses that are increasingly challenging: the rules are the same as in the Zone Battle, but the twist lies in the union of the three battlefields (when a special bar is filled) which requires you to create considerably longer lines, even by inserting the blocks in the sections of others , to perform devastating combos against the AI. Here the variables are even more numerous, making every challenge fun and unpredictable. It goes without saying that the experience takes on a completely different flavor in the company of a couple of friends, also because it is not always easy to find allies up to the situation.
As mentioned, to advance in the Division you will necessarily have to play ranked matches, but nothing will prevent you from also facing friendly matches without any impact on your rank, even locally up to 4 players (one of whom will play the role of the boss). If you choose to play online, however, you will find a very stable netcode and a quick and balanced matchmaking to welcome you, at least at the time of writing this piece.
Only Connected has forced us to wait longer than normal, but nothing particularly serious, while on the technical side, both online and offline, the version for Xbox One X it shows no significant flaws, except for an occasional drop in frame rate in the most effect-laden levels.
Tetris Effect ConnectedVersion Analyzed Xbox One XTetris Effect finally arrives on Xbox with an even wider and more enjoyable content offer, which makes up for the absence of VR with a new multiplayer sector to be discovered. Equipped with a dedicated plot and growth system, the package offers a number of modes that are not high, but still able to satisfy all Tetris fans, thanks to challenges based on the rules reinterpreted by Mizuguchi, but also on the modern and traditional variant of the game. There is also a unique and particular cooperative mode, in which you literally join forces with 2 other users to face fearsome bosses. In short, Tetris Effect Connected proves once again to be a refined reinterpretation of a timeless classic, a true masterpiece that resists the passage of time without giving up, ready to conquer even the new generations.