Tetris Effect Review

Tetris Effect Feature
Tetris Effect Feature
Released Tetris Effect
Designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi
Publisher Enhance Games (Website)
Home Page Tetris Effect Home

Over 30 years later, Tetris is still a game that holds its own

Many years ago, I got a Nintendo Game Boy for my 16th birthday.  The huge grey brick was still very new, and the thought of playing different games anywhere was magical.

The Game Boy came with Tetris, arguably the greatest game ever made.  The simple gameplay allows players to enter a Zen-like trance, where only you and the tetrominoes exist.  Clearing rows of blocks is a satisfying experience, and the inherent ‘Try Again’ challenge still works, even today.

Bring on the Tetris Effect

Such was the popularity of the original Tetris (no matter the platform you played it on), people started noticing something odd.  People started to report dreaming of tetrominoes and seeing interlocking patterns outside of the game.

For example, people started seeing how items on a supermarket shelf could be stacked differently to form single shapes.  You may look at some buildings off in the distance, and imagine the shape you ‘need’ to complete the rows.

Generally harmless, it nevertheless started research into the phenomena that playing Tetris for 30 minutes a day could help with cognitive skills.  Take that video game objectors!

Tetris Game Boy
This is where it all began for me. Tetris was around before this, but many hours were spent looking at a screen smaller than this picture! *Image from Nintendo UK

Of course, while all this is interesting, it doesn’t explain why Tetris was so popular.  All I can really tell you is that for me, Tetris is a kind of competitive jigsaw puzzle.

Think of any game that challenges you, and that feeling when you complete that challenge.  Never scored over 100 in Ticket to Ride before?  Got through the High Road in Crash Bandicoot without dying?  that feeling of satisfaction is addictive, isn’t it?

And this is where Tetris for me on the Game Boy sat.  As my score got higher and higher, I was rewarded with dancers and larger and larger rocketships launching.  It was fun to watch, and when I finally got the Space Shuttle, I was in heaven.  I still remember running around Lake Eppalock looking for my parents to show them.

Getting higher and higher scores was satisfying, but I could also play at lower speeds longer and just enjoy relaxing with the puzzle that is Tetris.  I could challenge myself or just sit back and relax, it was the game I needed it to be at the time.

Tetris Game Boy Shuttle Ending
This was the ending you hoped for back in the day. But it never stopped me from seeing if there was one more... *Image from Thumbnail https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofWVtZ9O0Yc

The more things change…

I am happy to say, at its core Tetris Effect is the same game I fell in love with almost 30 years ago.  There are a couple of new mechanics and game modes, but Teris is just Tetris, and I love it for being that way.

But don’t think if you have played Tetris before, you shouldn’t play Tetris Effect.  While the feel of the game has remained the same, so much more has happened here with the latest iteration.

But I don’t have PSVR

You can play Tetris Effect just on the PS4, and it is a great experience.  But you will be missing out on quite a bit.

For example, looking at the pictures I grabbed for this review, you can see a pretty game with various backgrounds and layouts.  What you can’t hear is the amazing soundtrack that goes with Tetris Effect and becomes part of the experience.

And that is what defines Tetris Effect – it’s an amazing experience.  Playing in the dark with headphones on will allow you to immerse yourself and enjoy, but playing Tetris in VR is just special.

Tetris Effect Gameplay 1
I have pushed the game back, but being able to turn your head and be in this room as you play is amazing

The PSVR difference

VR allows you to immerse yourself in new worlds – this has been discussed before.  But in Tetris Effect, with good headphones and the headset, you become part of a magical tapestry.

It sounds arty and full of hype, but this is one of the few times I really can’t explain the feeling any other way – Tetris Effect is a great example of gaming as an art form, with art in the traditional visual and/or audio context.

Playing a level with Dolphins swimming is beautiful.  There are no other words for it.  Then the music pitches as you clear rows, and the Dolphins react playfully cheering you on.

The sensation is distracting because you are playing a game but just want to watch the dolphins play.  But you keep playing to watch what else the Dolphins do.

The sensation of zooming through the waters or skimming on top of the ocean is indescribable – you need to experience it yourself.

Tetris Effect Mountain
Some areas like Space and Sea begin dark, but you can also get majestic views like this

The Journey

The main mode of Tetris Effect is called Journey mode, and it is fitting.  Traditional gaming wise, you can consider it the campaign mode.  Each level has it’s own visual and audio style to go with it.

The very first level has you playing at the bottom of the ocean, with neon sea creatures swimming around you as you progress.

Complete 36 lines and you are taken to a ‘cyber Egypt’ level.  Rather than the bottom of the ocean, you are in a darkened room with the illuminated outline of the playing area before you.

As you progress, outlines of hieroglyphics form and travel towards you.  Complete this, and you are whisked to a red Zen world where your movements create sound.

Tetris Effect Under the Sea
It is so calm and peaceful, and as you continue you begin to see larger and larger sea creatures as well!

No two levels are similar, and each is an amazing experience.  The Journey moniker is well earned indeed.

But.

While visually each level is different, there are changes and modifiers in each level or world as well.  Some will increase the speed of the blocks as you progress, either in score or number of lines.

Some levels will suddenly increase the speed insane levels.  Sometimes this is permanent, sometimes you just have to ‘survive’ the wave.  Each level is truly unique, but just like the visuals and audio, you need to learn how each level behaves.

Tetris Effect Journey Mode
Explore the galaxy in Journey Mode! I may have hit a level I need to practice though 🙂

The Zone

Many players and I describe the Zen-like trance that you fall into when you get into a game of Tetris.  Tetris Effect adds to this with a new mechanic known as The Zone.

It’s pretty simple – create lines and fill up a Zone meter.  When you activate the Zone, it begins counting down but tetrominoes stop dropping, giving you a much-needed breather.

Each line you complete drops to the bottom of the pile, also allowing you ‘fix’ some previous errors.  This also has the benefit of allowing you to create groups more than Tetris – Decahexatris (16 lines) is my current max, but I hope to improve soon!

Tetris Effect The Zone
Entering the Zone isn't just metaphorical in Journey - you can create awesome combos and high scores!

No time for Journey?  Enter the Effect mode

Tetris by itself is already a challenge, and the different modes on display through Journey mode are different.  But sometimes you just want to play Tetris, and this is where the Effect modes come in to play.

The description is ‘play to suit your mood’, and it’s very apt.  Want the challenge of clearing 150 lines offered in Marathon, but can’t quite get there?  Practice in Chill Marathon, that just clears the stack and starts again.

Only have a few minutes?  See how many lines you can clear in three minutes, or go for your highest score in the same time.

The most masochistic I have gotten is a mode where the tetrominoes drop in time with the music – you have no control over it.

Tetris Effect Space Station
How quickly can you make 40 lines? It takes longer than I thought

A gorgeous example of Yin and Yang

Tetris is a great game to calm and challenge yourself.  Everything in Tetris Effect rewards you in some way, but those rewards can also be a negative.

Made enough lines to see the horses gallop across the plain?  It’s beautiful, and they gallop right in front of you.

Get about 4-5 levels into Journey mode as a first-time player, and get used to the increased speed factor over time.  Then to have the speed triple or quadruple without warning can cause veterans to rage quit.  It really is just a case of learning the levels and their little quirks, but first impression wow it feels like a cheap loss.

But this is truly a first impression issue.  If you know that the game will occasionally lull you into a false sense of safety then thump you, then you can prepare for it.

I also wish there was a soundtrack released for Tetris Effect similar to Beat Saber.  I could listen to the first level for hours – it’s truly hauntingly beautiful.

So while it may sound like Tetris Effect will frustrate and annoy, it does so in a way that only dangles the challenge carrot before you – and you will want to keep going.  And going.

Tetris Effect Dolphins in the Way
So the area is dark because it is early in the level, but you can see the dolphins starting to dance before the play area already

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Tetris Effect

Final Thoughts

I haven’t really talked about the gameplay of Tetris, as the gameplay is pretty much a part of our culture now.

While there are some frustrating aspects to the gameplay, perseverance and practice will help you overcome – and you will want to.

Tetris Effect is more than just a game – it’s a project of beauty and love that offers more and more the deeper you go.  If you have only heard of Tetris, give this a go – you will thank yourself that you did.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  •  It’s Tetris
  •  Multiple modes to suit your mood
  •  Incredibly immersive experience with VR and Headphones

Cons

  •  The scenery can be distracting
  •  Sudden multi-level speed increases are frustrating

PSN Name Changes are real! It only took 13 odd years, but hey

PSN

Soon you can undo some past decisions – sort of

Online ID.  Gamertag.  Screen name.  Different names, same theory – the name you show to the world when you game online.

Most services allow you to update your screen name over time, but there has been one major player that has resisted – Sony.

When I first created my account on my shiny new fat PlayStation 3, I misread the screen and made my email address my PSN ID.

I thought to myself ‘I don’t play online – what’s the worst that can happen?’

As a plus to that thought, the amount of spam mail I got really puts gmails spam filter logic to the test these days 🙂

Now Sony has posted all kinds of reasons not to allow users to do the change, some technical and some philosophical.

PlayStation 3
When I bought one of these in 2007, my PSN ID was locked in forever.

Stopping people from griefing and bullying someone and then quickly changing their ID sounds reasonable.  However, if there was a good audit trail in place this wouldn’t be a real concern when people are investigated.  Yes, you report a User ID, but the report should go and check against the unique identifier that is attached to the screen name, not the name itself.

Now I don’t work at Sony, but I work in IT.  It sounds like there was basically a flawed design that has been left to be for over a decade, and now there are problems with fixing it.

The problems come in the form of some games having problems with the ID change.  No real details are available for what these bugs could be, but I am guessing potential account issues with online play as a primary concern.

Sony is working with developers to minimise this, and testing will begin soon with some lucky testers.  But while all this is being worked out, the rest of us will have to wait for sometime in 2019 before we can update our names.

Will you be changing your ID?  It will be nice to have all platforms call me JohnHQLD again 😀

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

The Persistence is coming to PSVR this week

The Persistence Feature

They try to describe The Persistence as an Action, Adventure, Survival, Stealth, Roguelike, Horror game.  With co-op elements.

Virtual Reality is dead is a sentence I hear a lot.  Still in its infancy in many ways, VR has a long way to go to fully establish itself it’s true.  But dead?  I don’t think so.  Beat Saber is a heap of fun and it’s not even ‘finished’ yet.  Resident Evil 7 was amazing, even on the ‘underpowered’ PSVR.  Moss is just gorgeous, and I am resisting buying it again so I can play it on the Vive.

Most of the ‘best’ VR games have something in common though – they are all short experiences.  Dedicate an afternoon, and you will see the end credits.  Keep getting zapped by the alien around the third corner?  Enough retries, you will get him.  I know that’s how I got through a lot of Resident Evil 7 early on.

But what if the bad guy wasn’t always around the third corner?  This is part of the appeal of Roguelike games.  You always have the same goals, but the layout and enemies are always different.  Thinking of playing Resident Evil where the house layout was different every time I died – now there is a challenge!

Firesprite not only thought this challenge would be a good idea but added a bunch of twists and packaged it as The Persistence.  One of the most anticipated titles for PSVR this year, The Persistence is available this week.

Story elements at the moment are pretty light.  You are on a colony ship where the crew is dead, and mutants have overrun the ship.  If that wasn’t bad enough, your ship is also damaged and near a black hole.  So, basically that feeling you get Monday morning.

Armed with a clone printer and the electronic recordings of the Security Office and Engineer, you set out to somehow repair the ship and survive whatever has happened.

This is not a game for a light casual pick up and put down session.

The Persistence Black Hole
Oh what a lovely view oh wait I know what that is...

Stealth will be a major part of The Persistence, and Firesprite has bumped up a mechanic from Alien: Isolation.  In Alien, you could play with the camera and physically move your head to peek around boxes.  The microphone also picked up on sounds in the room.  This meant the Alien could ‘hear’ you – nothing terrifying about that when you were hiding.

But this was playing on a flat screen with a feature you could switch off.  In The Persistence, you will have to actually duck down and hide behind boxes from mutant enemies.  There is also a mechanic where you will need to sneak up on them and incapacitate them to harvest material.  Immersive gameplay seems to be on the cards.

There is also a second screen mode to play with a friend.  This took a couple of minutes for me to get my head around – a second screen in VR?

What it means is a friend can log in and join your game on a phone or tablet.  They won’t be fighting with you but would have hacked into the ship’s computer.  This way, they can help you out with enemy locations or opening doors and lockers.

Or they can help kill you by luring enemies and getting advantages in their own game.  Maybe be careful getting your best frenemy to help you up front 🙂

The Persistence Second Screen
How much do you trust the person playing with you? You can't see their screen after all!

My PSVR hasn’t been neglected, but the Vive has definitely taken the lead in most playtime recently.  Beat Saber on PSVR will probably lead to two players in my house playing on two different systems at the same time.

Everything is looking good for The Persistence to pull me into a new world, and I can’t wait to give it a good run and a formal review.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD