Tetris is one of those games that everybody knows. Shapes fall down the screen, you slot them into place to form lines and remove them from play, shapes keep coming, repeat until the blocks pile up to the top of the screen and there's no room left to move. Since its creation in 1984, countless versions of the game have appeared on almost every platform imaginable, the latest of which comes from Tetsuya Mizuguchi, developer of cult hits Rez and Lumines, with Tetris Effect.
The emphasis on sound and visuals in Mizuguchi's previous games very much carries over to Tetris Effect. While it's almost impossible to deviate too much from the core gameplay (otherwise it just wouldn't be “proper” Tetris), nobody's really tried to change the overall ambience to this extent before. Each of the game's thirty stages has its own individual background animations and soundtrack, both of which evolve as players clear lines and the game gets faster.
Ranging from chilled out Tori Amos-esque piano numbers to minimal Bjork-ish electro, a bit of (slightly dated, if we're honest) hip hop and even a hint of African drumming, each song compliments the visuals perfectly, and the overall experience can create an almost zen-like state when you really get into the zone. The whole game can be played on a normal TV or through a PSVR headset, and while VR doesn't add anything to the gameplay, the sensation of sitting in front of a giant Tetris board while all kinds of things whizz around you is really quite special. Pop some headphones on for full immersion and the hours really do just fly by...
Tetris Effect is split into two main modes - Journey and Effect. Journey takes players through all of the game's environments in sets of three to five stages in which a certain number of lines must be cleared before continuing. Effect mode contains most of the rule variations, such as getting the highest score possible within a line or time limit, or clearing a certain amount of lines as quickly as possible. This is also where you'll find “basic Tetris”, hiding away under the unwieldy guise of Marathon mode with the “Endless” modifier turned off, allowing players to simply keep going until they're beaten. It's baffling why the most popular and well-known version of the game has been buried in a fairly obscure place, and it took us a fair while to realise it was even there, but at least now we know.
The most interesting part of Effect mode is “Mystery”, where players are challenged to clear 150 lines while random effects change the gameplay every so often. Bombs, huge shapes, flipped screens and many other hazards threatening to derail your carefully planned moves at every opportunity, adding a welcome layer of unpredictability to proceedings.
If you're already a Tetris fan, you'll absolutely love this to bits, but if you're not too fussed one way or the other then it's unlikely Tetris Effect will change your opinion. And if you're one of the few who has never played Tetris before, you should definitely start with this one and never look back. While the old classic versions are still fantastic today, the audio and visual enhancements in this version - particularly when played in VR - set it head and shoulders above any other Tetris that came before it. A sublime experience.
TETRIS EFFECT / DEVELOPER: RESONAIR / PUBLISHER: ENHANCE / PLATFORM: PLAYSTATION 4 / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW