Tetris Effect review: Building up to excellence

Tetris Effect is out now for PS4 and PSVR. Find out what we think in our Shacknews review.

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Tetris Effect has officially been released into the world and PS4 players are in for a treat. The powers that be tapped Tetsuya Mizuguichi to bring this classic puzzle game into the next generation. The creator of Rez and Lumines has brought his signature attention to detail with a brand new take that should have gamers paying close attention to what should be a welcomed addition to the Tetris franchise.

Changing the game

I sat at the menu of Tetris Effect staring at particles flowing through space to serence ambient music. I knew right then that this was a very special video game. This was a new Tetris. It would have been easy to repackage the same Tetrominoes and music into a new and pretty bundle, but luckily the developers went another route. With the introduction of Journey Mode, players have a new way to play single player that ushers in a brand new gameplay experience for Tetris.

Traditional Tetris games increase the speed at which Tetrominoes fall based on time or line progression. Tetris Effect has taken a completely different approach. Each level in Journey Mode is tailored to a song. Gameplay elements like twirling pieces, clearing lines, and knocking out a Tetris all trigger audio events that fit perfectly with the outstanding music. The level of immersion created by this tweak to gameplay has made Tetris Effect one of the most innovatiive puzzle games to be released in recent history.

The classic difficulty of gameplay is still present in the game, but the change in how the speed of a level progresses is a new wildcard for seasoned Tetris veterans. Players will be left wanting to go back to certain areas in Journey Mode after they learn how songs affect the pace of each level. In some cases, they will want to return to a level simply because the music is just that darn good. The replay value of Tetris Effect will end up resembling racing games, but players will be studying musical queues instead of memorizing turns on a racetrack.

Meditative relaxation

The graphics in Tetris Effect, powered by Unreal Engine 4, are simply breathtaking. The development team must have realized this early on while making the game because they added Theater Mode, where players can just sit back and let the amazing visuals flow over them. This is an awesome addition to the game and I found myself leaving my favorite songs running while working during the day. Players can control what specific part of the level they are listening to, or allow autoplay to take control and showcase the song in its natural flow. It seems crazy to sit here and gush about the graphics in a puzzle game, but Tetris Effect has some of the best visuals I have witnessed in a video game this year. Theater Mode adds even more replayability with a chill new way to passively enjoy the game.

Enhanced by VR

Enhance Games made a splash last year with Rez Infinite being playable in VR. The game was not built for VR, but with some slight design tweaks, it became one of my favorite virtual reality games of all-time. With Tetris Effect, the team really got to build the game from the ground up to work in virtual reality as well as regular TV screens. Everything that makes Tetris Effect great on your TV is enhanced by PSVR. Playing with headphones and being immersed in the cornucopia of magical visual art adds an air of tranquility at times, but also can make things a bit more intense when levels pick up their pace. One thing to note is that visual elements will appear over the playable area at times which is way more noticeable while playing in virtual reality.

While VR isn't for everyone, Tetris Effect in VR will appeal to more gamers as it is a seated experience that uses the traditional PlayStation DualShock4 controller. I found myself playing the game more on my regular TV than in VR as the franchise has been known to affect people's minds. This Tetris Effect is definitely more intensely felt when your brain is experiencing things in virtual reality. PSVR support at launch is a welcome addition to the game that doesn't force itself on players while allowing VR junkies to get their fix.

Marching to a new beat

Tetris Effect didn't completely throw away the franchise formula and includes fan-favorite modes like Marathon, Sprint and Ultra. The game also features over 30 different stages each with their own unique music, sound effects and graphics style. The development team also introduced a "Zone" mechanic that allows players to stop time to figure out their way out of problematic situations. 

One of the only negative things I can say about this game is that the lack of local or online multiplayer is a disappointment. There are online leaderboards that will allow players to see where they rank amongst other players and their friends, but much of what makes a Tetris game fun is going head to head with your friends. The game runs up to 4K and at 60 fps, so perhaps the team didn't want to compromise performance in the name of multiplayer. Regardless of their reasoning, the lack of multiplayer is disappointing and will be another key differentiator from the rest of the series.

Tetris Effect is the best iteration of the game franchise since the New Tetris on Nintendo 64. The team at Enhance Games took serious risks with gameplay and the payoff is tremendous for gamers. Anyone who loves puzzlers will instantly be drawn in by the new feel of it and folks who are new to the series will be surprised and delighted by the absurd attention to detail found in every corner of this game. Tetris Effect is one of the best games to be released this year, and Tetsuya Mizuguichi's team has truly changed the game for the better. This is the update to Tetris no one knew they needed, but now that we have it, it is impossible to imagine stepping back.


This review is based on a PS4 download code provided by the publisher. Tetris Effect is available in retail and digital stores today, for $39.99. The game is rated E for everyone.

CEO

Asif Khan is the CEO and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Tendobox.com. Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

Filed Under

Review for
Tetris Effect

9

Pros

  • Tons of replayability
  • Stunning graphics
  • Outstanding music
  • Diverse selection of musical genres
  • Revolutionary gameplay

Cons

  • No local or online multiplayer mode
  • Not on Nintendo Switch
  • Could use more techno beats

From The Chatty

  • reply
    November 9, 2018 12:05 PM

    Asif Khan posted a new article, Tetris Effect review: Building up to excellence

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 12:34 PM

      This game is so good.

      • reply
        November 9, 2018 12:39 PM

        Maybe it's just me, but I have a little trouble getting excited over a 30 year old game

        • reply
          November 9, 2018 12:40 PM

          Yeah, well did you read a single word in the review? Or did you just react to the headline and thread?

        • reply
          November 9, 2018 12:44 PM

          A) Dude. It’s Tetris. Arguably the most timeless video game ever made.

          B) It’s a version of Tetris tailored to VR, catering to the inherent immersion of the platform. What’s not to like?

          • reply
            November 9, 2018 12:48 PM

            I don't like that it's not on PC

            • reply
              November 9, 2018 12:50 PM

              That is a good point. I hope it will be a timed exclusive like Rez Infinite.

            • reply
              November 9, 2018 1:32 PM

              This is what's killing me. I desperately want to play this game, but I don't own a PS4.

              • reply
                November 9, 2018 7:31 PM

                Same. I own a ps4 but no ps4vr so I’m waiting. No shortage of games of course.

          • reply
            November 9, 2018 12:49 PM

            It's tetris, I feel like I've been there, done that, doesn't really excite me

            Never done any VR stuff so not really a draw at all for me.

            Also, I didn't realize sharing a personal opinion meant I needed to be saved or converted or whatever

            • reply
              November 9, 2018 12:50 PM

              Replying to a review of a game without reading it is pretty lame. That is my only point.

              • reply
                November 9, 2018 12:54 PM

                I'm not going to invest time in consuming something I have little interest in. I skimmed the video, went "ayup, that be tetris and it ain't doing shit for me" and posted to bump front page content and "join the conversation" to see if anyone else felt similarly. I suppose I could always refrain from discussing things on a discussion board though.

                • reply
                  November 9, 2018 12:56 PM

                  You do you. I’ll do me.

                  • reply
                    November 9, 2018 1:40 PM

                    I’d rather we do each other.

                • reply
                  November 9, 2018 4:59 PM

                  You forgot the last step where you then fired up a retread PC release of a card game from 1993.

        • reply
          November 9, 2018 12:49 PM

          it’s just you

        • reply
          November 9, 2018 12:52 PM

          How I read this reply: Excuse me, theres a sign at ramset park that says "do not drink the sprinkler water" so i made sun tea from it and now i have an infection. Sir? Are you listening to me? Sir? Sir?! SIR I'M TALKING TO YOU.

      • reply
        November 9, 2018 1:47 PM

        I still feel like they overshot the price on this.

        • reply
          November 9, 2018 1:51 PM

          That is fair, we don’t really factor in price in game reviews.

          • reply
            November 9, 2018 2:22 PM

            I was interested in buying this game since I thought it would be around $30. Apparently it's $53.49 Canadian bucks on PSN and $49.99 on Amazon.

            Yikes!

            • reply
              November 9, 2018 2:42 PM

              Well, hopefully it will go one sale at a better price for Canadians :(

              • reply
                November 9, 2018 3:00 PM

                It just feels like a game that will go on sale very soon. The Cdn overcharge makes it fit into the pricerange of a regular AAA price with pre-order deal that every store has.

                It's just psychological for me in a sad way.

      • reply
        November 9, 2018 8:00 PM

        I played it for about an hour last night, it really is excellent. I love Tetris and this has that Lumines touch to it. Soo good.

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 1:32 PM

      The cons are SERIOUS cons for me

      No switch, AND no local coop? Ugghhh, my wife would love to play this with me

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 1:38 PM

      That video is mesmerizing. I want this now.

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 1:51 PM

      Ctrl+F: "Switch"

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 1:58 PM

      This is a great article, tmwtb.

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 2:03 PM

      this game reminds me of when people used screensavers except there's tetris happening over it

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 2:16 PM

      I might buy this instead of RDR2. That makes me feel weird.

      • reply
        November 9, 2018 4:30 PM

        Ffs. Why release a demo and remove it before release? I’m not gonna spend £36 on Tetris no matter how good the reviews and videos look unless playing it blows my mind. Which this could have done.

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 3:16 PM

      wow that looks really cool

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 4:38 PM

      I love me some Tetris. I will definitely be getting this.

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 4:41 PM

      While VR isn't for everyone, Tetris Effect in VR will appeal to more gamers as it is a seated experience that uses the traditional PlayStation DualShock4 controller. I found myself playing the game more on my regular TV than in VR as the franchise has been known to affect people's minds. This Tetris Effect is definitely more intensely felt when your brain is experiencing things in virtual reality. PSVR support at launch is a welcome addition to the game that doesn't force itself on players while allowing VR junkies to get their fix.

      Aaahhh that sounds rad but... I'm going on a Quest!

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 6:15 PM

      played the demo and the pace was just too slow for me. Maybe i neede to up to the hardest difficulty, but it seemed to drag. Kept thinking I should just switch back to lumines remastered.

      This without VR so I dunno maybe that's what makes it.

      • reply
        November 9, 2018 6:27 PM

        It didn't click for me either (demo at least). All the visuals on the side were neat, but they also got distracting and actually changed how I would play. If I wanted pretty visuals then my focus became clearing lines as fast as possible, but Tetris like that doesn't really have enough to keep my attention. Dunno...I feel broken for not liking this more than I did as it seems like a game I should really enjoy chilling out to.

      • reply
        November 9, 2018 7:30 PM

        Yeah, up your difficulty

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 6:27 PM

      Best iteration on Tetris since Tetris DS.

      • reply
        November 9, 2018 6:52 PM

        Also, I’m calling it “Tetrez”. Who’s with me?

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 6:34 PM

      This game needs to be on the switch. The VR part is whatever for me, but it's a gorgeous Tetris game and I could play Tetris for hours.

      • reply
        November 9, 2018 7:37 PM

        It's not a Sony published game so it will likely come to other platforms eventually.

        I assume PC because of VR like Rez Infinite did, although they did put out Lumines Remastered for the Switch so that is a possibility.

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 7:47 PM

      This needs to be on PC, so I can do the VR.

    • reply
      November 9, 2018 10:55 PM

      Seriously sad I don't have a PS4 to play this on, it's an impressive vision that transforms a classic game into an audio visual experience beyond itself.

      Hopefully it will come to other platforms sooner than later.

    • reply
      November 10, 2018 12:39 AM

      Tetris with some fancy background graphics? So much wow?

      • reply
        November 10, 2018 12:41 AM

        this game is really amazing. yes, it’s tetris but this one has sooooo much personality.

    • reply
      November 10, 2018 12:53 AM

      Wish it was on PC

    • reply
      November 10, 2018 4:02 AM

      I was looking forward to this but $40 is an insane price. No fucking way.