Tetris Effect Review

Release Date11/9/2018
PlatformsPS4, PSVR
DeveloperResonair, Enhance Games
Price$39.99 USD
ESRB RatingEveryone


The Tetris Effect can be described as when unconscious thought is pattered by conscious action, especially from puzzle games like Tetris. Those that experience the Tetris Effect might see tetrominoes in their peripheral vision after playing a lot of Tetris, for example, and their thought processes may focus on organizing certain small aspects of their life. Tetris Effect aims to bring players back into this mindset by using traditional Tetris gameplay with immersive visuals and audio tied to the speed of play. The game is an experience, using the PS4’s ability to paint colorful visuals making an age-old game feel like something you’ve never experienced before.

Tetris Effect Gameplay
Photo Credit: Resonair, Enhance Games

Tetris Effect is, in a basic sense, like every other Tetris game before it. Place tetrominoes as they fall with the goal of clearing solid lines, or four lines at once called a tetris. The more lines cleared, the faster the tetrominoes fall, and the harder it is to clear lines. This core method hasn’t changed, but Tetris Effect instead brings something new to the table – smooth, introspective visuals and thematic audio to match the scene of the level or effect. This is unlike every other Tetris before it, which have historically just been about the puzzle elements. The only other Tetris game that comes close to this in visuals is 2002’s Tetris Worlds for GameCube, PS2, and original Xbox.

Tetris Effect Journey Mode
Photo Credit: Resonair, Enhance Games

Journey Mode is Tetris Effect‘s version of a single-player story mode. It starts with “The Deep”, which is the level most would be familiar with from the trailers, and features the “I’m Yours Forever” theme song. As each section of the three-to-five-scene level starts, there’s no clear-cut song playing. As each tetromino falls and turns, they create beats to match the scene. After ten cleared lines, most scenes will shift and paint more of the story surrounding the scene. Some start with deep bass drums in simple rhythm, only changing to a ritualistic beat and thump with the dotted shapes of seated people behind the game screen. It’s a simple story of a more ancient ritual, but watching it unfold behind the game is almost inexplicably immersive. Others are simpler, with techno-like beats and a kaleidoscope of colors appearing before you as you attempt the clear the 30 lines of the level.

The speed of play in Journey Mode matches each scene being played. Similar to the aforementioned scene, another starts with a peaceful beach and torches, the tetrominos making simple drum beats as they move, starting at a lower speed of play. After ten lines, the scene quickly shifts to faster beats and a scene that would remind one of an erupting volcano and ancient tribes chanting to calm the flowing lava. The pieces fell softly at first, level 2 or 3 depending on difficulty, but changing to a speed of 8 makes gameplay rather difficult without an easy transition. For players less experienced in Tetris gameplay, the quick shifts might be hard to keep a consistent level of gameplay and keep each scene flowing smoothly. Some become quickly fast-paced and stay there, while others stay at a lower level for the whole set of scenes on your journey. Switching back and forth between fast and slow gameplay can be even more distracting.

Tetris Effect Zone
Photo Credit: Resonair, Enhance Games

New to Tetris Effect is the “Zone”. During Journey Mode and other play modes, the player can toggle the “Zone” feature, pausing the timer and the falling blocks to either save yourself or use creative upstacking (and then downstacking) to your advantage for some serious points. Each cleared line while in the Zone moves to the bottom of the stack, but doesn’t actually clear while the Zone is active. Higher-level Tetris players can effectively upstack, and then use each new tetromino to downstack while the Zone is active, clearing most of the screen for the elusive Decahexatris, or 16 cleared lines. A Perfectris is also possible, with some players achieving the feat with 18 cleared lines. 19 and 20 cleared lines are also possible, though I haven’t seen anyone achieve the feat just yet. For those that can’t quite snag the skill to pull off that many cleared lines, the Zone will allow you to clear just enough lines to save yourself from losing the game, but won’t count any cleared lines towards your total goal for the level.

While Tetris Effect is a visual masterpiece in itself, the advancements made to draw the more average player into the game will detract some of the more serious players. The pulsing visual effects are often distracting, making you lose your place on the field and misplace a tetromino. For someone that generously uses the immediate place of each piece, a bright visual pulse at just the right moment often made me overestimate how far over a piece was and broke up my whole stack. In a similar vein, the controls can feel slow at times, especially when the game speed is at 5 or above. The PS4 controller’s D-pad doesn’t feel as responsive as it could be, but is something that you can get used to with enough play. A high-level Tetris player may not be as interested in this as they would be their arcade cabinet of TGM. The actual game field also feels extremely small for the empty frame around it, with a lot of room on the top and bottom where the game could have been larger. I found myself quite often leaning closer to my monitor just to feel like I was seeing the field properly. It wasn’t much better on a larger 65″ TV, though I didn’t play on the TV for very long.

Tetris Effect Effect Mode
Photo Credit: Resonair, Enhance Games

In addition to Journey Mode, Tetris Effect also features Effect Modes, which are the more arcade-style modes of Tetris outside of a specifically goal-oriented game. Some of the modes included are Purify, where the player has to clear marked “Infection” blocks within the specified timeframe, Mystery, where different effects are applied at random intervals (like flipping the game upside down!), or the all-too-familiar Marathon mode to get the most points within 150 line clears. Like past games, there’s also Sprint, to clear 40 lines as quickly as possible, and Master, which is described as “insanely fast” and “not for the faint of heart”. I’ll give you a hint, it’s M1 speed, where the pieces almost instantaneously place themselves. Definitely for high-level players to enjoy. There’s also the more relaxed no-fail modes, and playlists focused on experiencing the aesthetic side of the game on specific maps like Wind or Sea.

Each of these modes gives Tetris Effect a fair amount of replayability, especially for players that aren’t the best at maxing out what Tetris in itself has to offer. For some, getting the fastest speed in Classic or Marathon mode is their go-to, but I honestly spent the most time playing Purify and trying to focus on placement and how to best learn efficient placement to get rid of the pesky infection. Trophy hunters may struggle with T-spins, which can be difficult to learn and even harder to master, and have 2 associated trophies, as well as achieving SS ranks on each mode and level where they can be obtained for another 3 trophies.

Tetris Effect Globe
Photo Credit: Resonair, Enhance Games

Tetris Effect also brings the community together to achieve certain goals in Effect Modes. This weekend, for example, the “Adventurous Ritual Goal” was to achieve 1,500,000 points across the Adventurous Effect Modes of Countdown, Purify, and Mystery. It seems like a large number, and I’d only gotten 165 points, but the goal was quickly achieved across the community with over ten hours left to go. Reaching the goal gave players a better chance at unlocking the random avatars that can be used on the Effect Modes Community screen shown above, which range from simple circles, to jellyfish, to large alien carriers.

The VR mode of Tetris Effect didn’t bring anything revolutionary to the game, but did increase the view for the game field itself. It was a pretty immersive experience, which almost seems impossible for the game to get more immersive. At times it felt like you were in the ritual circles, or truly flying through the sea and clouds of the different scenes. I much preferred playing without VR, especially as the PSVR can be uncomfortable after some time.

Tetris Effect is a fun and interesting take on the core gameplay that Tetris is known for. While the $40 price tag might deter some, the visual effects and simple storytelling make for a truly immersive and fun experience that’s pretty unexpected for a simple puzzle game. Combined with the many modes in Effect Modes, it takes some time for the game to get stale.

Breathtaking visualsSmall field of play
Immersive game world for a simple puzzle gameVisuals can be distracting
Fun extra game modes and community involvementLess-than-optimal controller response


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