Friday, January 15, 2021

Tetris Effect Connected Review

Publisher: Enhance Experience Inc.
Developers: Resonair, Monstars Inc. and Stage Games
Platforms: XBO, XBSX, Windows Game Store. PS4, Steam, and EGS in Summer 2021.
Price: $40, Free expansion for Tetris Effect in 2021.
Version Played: PC Game Pass

From the moment I first played Lumines, I thought they should make this game. Tetris Effect combines the trippy graphics of Lumines and Rez with the falling block puzzle game that started it all, Tetris. I've played everything from Mii and Nintendo themed Tetris to Tetris with Puyo Puyo characters, and I can safely say that this is the most amazing looking Tetris game I've ever seen.

The thing that really sets Tetris Effect apart from other Tetris games is how the music and visuals fit perfectly together with the gameplay. Every time you move a piece or clear a line, it makes a sound, and somehow, it goes along perfectly with the music. It's pretty amazing. But this isn't some kind of Tetris rhythm game. At its core, this is still just Tetris.

The only real new mechanic is the Zone system. Zone is a lot like a fighting game super move. You fill a meter as you clear lines and then press RT to use Zone and stop pieces from falling by themselves for a short period of time. It comes in handy when you're about to lose and need the extra time to place pieces. Zone powers are only available in a couple of modes, though; Zone Battle and Journey.

Journey is Tetris Effect's single player campaign. It’s a journey through all the game's level themes and songs. You play through groups of connected levels, usually between 3 and 5, and your goal is to clear a certain amount of lines so you can move on to the next level. The play fields are not cleared when you move to the next level, but they will start off empty if you lose and continue. I guess they just want you to stay in the zone. Another unique thing about this mode is that the speed of falling pieces changes along with the music. Levels don't always start slow and get faster towards the end.

There are also 13 other single player modes under Effect Modes. There’s the usual Marathon, playlists of stages with similar themes, Quick Play for single levels, time challenges, score attacks, and other mini games, like target clear modes. Some of these are pretty fun, but honestly, I’m just going to play endless Marathon 99% of the time.

Like the song says, we're all connected. Tetris Effect Connected's new modes are all about online and local multiplayer. You can play all these modes offline, and even by yourself with CPU controlled teammates. The main mode, Connected, is like nothing I've ever seen in a Tetris game. It's a 3 player co-op game in which you play as a team against a boss with special powers. The boss can take away your ability to hold or spin pieces, send huge pieces your way, and even shuffle the blocks on your play field around. It can get pretty nasty, but it's fun. What's really interesting about this mode, though, is the connected part. As you clears lines, a meter fills, and when it's full, all 3 of your team's boards are connected into one and you can freely place pieces anywhere for a short period of time. When the time runs out, you send tons of garbage blocks to the boss, and that's how you beat them. It’s almost like a Tetris raid. It's really good. I'd love to see something like this in Tetris 99.

Connected is a lot of fun, but if co-op Tetris isn't your thing, there's also some more traditional multiplayer modes. Zone Battle is basically regular VS Tetris with garbage blocks, but with Tetris Effect's Zone system. There's also score attack, which is like playing single player and comparing scores at the end, and Classic Score Attack, which is the same thing, but with 8-bit Tetris graphics and rules. No hold or hard drops allowed. I think these modes are pretty good, but why isn't there 4 player VS or 2P VS without Zone powers? Those seem like obvious things.

There are also weekend events for both Effect Modes and Multiplayer. In Effect Modes, certain modes will be marked as “Event” and they’ll contribute to a community goal for the event. Everyone who participates will unlock an avatar when the goal is reached. Under Multiplayer, the “Full Moon” will appear on Saturdays. The Full Moon allows you to play Connected VS, which is Connected mode, but with a real person playing as the boss. I played as the boss a few times and got destroyed by the garbage clocks sent my way every time, but it was a lot of fun.

Tetris Effect's soundtrack isn't exactly something I'd listen to on its own, but I love it while I'm playing the game. The experience just isn't complete without the graphics and the gameplay. It's the way everything comes together that makes the soundtrack perfect for the game. There are a couple of tracks I love, even by themselves, though; City Lights, a fast-paced Jazz track, and Connected, the main theme of the game.

I love how this game looks. It's like the trippy graphics of Rez and Child of Eden taken to the next level. But like with the music, they're only part of the experience. There's a word for when hearing sounds makes you see colors, synesthesia. Tetris Effect is a game about synesthesia. You're not getting the full effect of the graphics by just looking at the game. You need to see and hear how the game responds to you playing it.

I love this game. I'm not saying it's perfect, I could come up with some more modes to throw in here, but it's definitely one of my favorite Tetris games of all time. It's a shame that it's been tied up in exclusivity deals since its original release because everyone should have a way to play it.