Tetris Effect E3 2018 Hands-On Preview: Building Blocks of Virtual Reality

Tetris comes to virtual reality for the first time and not only does it feel good, it feels good enough to justify picking up a PlayStation VR on its own. Shacknews goes eyes-on at E3 2018.

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PlayStation VR had an understated presence at this year's E3, but Sony's virtual reality peripheral quietly had quite the show. A number of games debuted during last week's E3 2018 PlayStation Showcase, but one of the most exciting games to show up at the PlayStation booth turned out to be a new twist on an old favorite.

Tetris Effect is the latest effort from Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi and the folks at Enhance Games. On the surface, it's simply more Tetris. But after strapping on a headset and spending a good half-hour with the demo, this felt much more like a blowaway experience than anything else I had encountered on the E3 show floor.

First and foremost, the atmosphere starts off relaxing. Tetris Effect tries to set an ambiant tone at the beginning, giving players a sense of tranquility with a dark background, a gentle aura, and harmonic music. An overworld map appears, as players see that they're in for a lengthy campaign of block building and tower stacking.

The gameplay is old-school Tetris. The idea is to twist falling Tetrominos and create full horizontal lines. Hard drops are tied to the Up button on the D-pad, while softer drops are tied to the Down button. This is the classic Tetris formula, with one noteworthy addition. There's a Zone meter on the bottom-left corner that gets filled as lines are completed. Once the meter is filled, the shoulder trigger can momentarily slow down the action, with all completed lines getting warped and stored at the bottom of the screen. Once the Zone effect wears off, all of the lines are cleared simultaneously. This opens the doors beyond Tetris (four lines) and can lead to Octotris (eight lines), Decatris (ten lines), or even Dodecatris (twelve lines). But the window isn't open for long, meaning players more than ever need to plan out their moves ahead of time in order to maximize their scoring potential.

The atmosphere changes after every 25 lines completed and that's where the Tetris Effect concept starts to shine. The visuals went from underwater aquatic ambiance to sharp, neon gold textures to a Mayan temple filled with worshippers who chant upon the completion of every line. The music shifts from hip-hop to soothing instrumentals to uptempo pop. While all of these scenary shifts might sound like they could lend themselves to nausea, I am relieved to say that this is not the case. All of this is delivered with a crisp clarity, which proved a huge relief for myself, given how I'm occasionally prone to VR sickness.

In the same fashion that Tetris created a hunger for the original Game Boy, I can honestly see Tetris Effect creating that same desire for the PlayStation VR. This is a wildly immersive experience that must be tried in virtual reality. Until E3, there had not been a game I walked away from going, "I must own a PlayStation VR." Tetris Effect changed that.

Look for Tetris Effect to hit PlayStation VR (and PlayStation 4, for those who insist on the non-VR version) this fall.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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