Alexey Pajitnov's classic falling block puzzler is still a blast over 3 decades since its debut. Who would've thought that gamers would ever be able to play it in VR? Well, strap on your headset and let's experience the Tetris Effect!
As a long-time gamer who has been playing Tetris ever since the NES and Game Boy days, I was very excited to try out this latest installment and I'm glad that I did. I've played almost every Tetris variant over the years but I never imagined playing it in VR. For starters, the classic gameplay holds up beautifully and it's as addictive as ever. Some Tetris games in the past have been criticised for gameplay issues such as allowing players to infinitely spin the pieces thus cheating in a way but everything here is implemented perfectly to provide rewarding and enjoyable puzzle fun for gamers of all skill levels. With all of that being said, what makes Tetris Effect special is that it was directed by Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Lumines fame and it involves progressing through various themed stages, just like in Lumines. There's also a nifty Zone mechanic that basically allows you to temporarily keep dropping blocks as lines shift instead of disappear which lets you achieve a substantial score boost as well as break out of a sticky situation. It's innovative and satisfying stuff.
It goes without saying but Tetris Effect's sights and sounds are downright amazing. The themed stages will have you playing within memorable and trippy environments and whether you're surrounded by windmills, sea creatures, or psychedelic imagery; taking in the visuals while playing Tetris is an absolute treat. The music is just as immersive with plenty of unconventional yet incredible tracks and effects that match your button presses which is highly reminiscent of Lumines. On top of all that, playing in VR with headphones on amplifies the immersive nature of the visuals and sound design to a much higher degree. On the other hand, VR doesn't really add anything to the gameplay which I found to be somewhat disappointing. I figured the developers would have thought of a clever way to alter the gameplay in VR but you basically just stare straight ahead and play Tetris in the distance which is still fun, I guess.
Tetris Effect consists of Journey Mode which contains a campaign with a few difficulty settings and Effect Modes which consists of 15 variations complete with leaderboards. Journey Mode is enjoyable for those who want to play through all of the different stage themes in succession and it is challenging trying to achieve a total high score for the entire campaign. However, I found the Effect Modes to be much more enjoyable as they offer distinct takes on the classic formula. Trying to eliminate certain blocks, perform combos, and get high scores within certain criteria provides a fantastic amount of replay value. Meanwhile, you'll level up and can see other players circling the planet but these components are mostly superficial albeit interesting. Even with all of these challenges, I wish the core gameplay had more variations. For example, my favourite Tetris variant is cascade (as featured in The Next Tetris) but it's not available here.
Another area where Tetris Effect is lacking in is multiplayer. Sure, climbing the leaderboards and beating friends' scores is enjoyable but there is absolutely no local or online multiplayer whatsoever. When you consider the fantastic multiplayer featured in last year's Puyo Puyo Tetris, it's baffling that they didn't even bother including any sort of multiplayer content here.
Although the complete lack of multiplayer is a significant missed opportunity, challenging the various modes that Tetris Effect has to offer is an absolute joy. When you factor in the mind-blowing visuals and music, you're left with one unique take on an iconic puzzler.
- + Classic Tetris gameplay that's still incredibly addictive and satisfying
- + Amazing music and visuals
- + Lots of modes to challenge
- - Besides looking cool, VR doesn't really add anything to the gameplay
- - No multiplayer whatsoever
- - Core gameplay could use more variations