Review – Tetris Effect

How do you reinvent something as classic and perfected as Tetris? How can you create something new based on what is essentially the most perfect puzzle game ever made, and one of the greatest and most important video games ever? It’s certainly no easy task, but place it in the hands of puzzle mastermind Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the man behind Lumines and Rez, and you get one heck of a psychedelic VR experience. I’m talking about Tetris Effect, yet another killer app for the PSVR released in 2018.

Tetris® Effect_20181111182134

The puzzle field looks a lot larger when you’re actually playing the game.

Tetris Effect is essentially what would happen if you mixed the classic puzzle invented by Alexey Pajitnov with the freakiest scenes from the Doctor Strange movie. At its core, it’s your typical Tetris game, with lots of different modes and a familiar objective. You can hold a piece just like the newest iterations, as well as perform a brand new trick called “Zone”, in which you stop time for a few seconds and are able to clear a ton of lines at once. Knowing how to use this gimmick can save you from a previous mistake. You have no idea how useful that is once you’ve racked a hundred lines and may ruin your run due to a misplace Z-shaped tetromino.

The main draw of the game isn’t a new gameplay mechanic. Tetris Effect‘s main selling point is its presentation, most specifically its visuals and music. Tetris Effect is as much of a music game as it is an actual Tetris game. The soundtrack is eclectic, ranging from drum n’ bass to jazz, and it’s all synced to your movements in the game. For instance, during a jazz session level, moving pieces left and right results in different piano keys being played, with a cleared line resulting in an upbeat tune. You could say that you’re composing music at the same time you’re playing a puzzler. During the game’s “story” mode of sorts, the speed in which the pieces fall down isn’t tied to your skill level, but actually tied to the song’s beat. To make things even cooler, the controller vibrates according to the beat as well.

Tetris® Effect_20181111185102

It can get a bit distracting at times.

The visuals are as trippy as your average Tame Impala music video. On one moment you’re in a desert surrounded by silhouettes of camels and on the next moment you’re surrounded by karma wheels from a buddhist temple, all while being downright bombarded with an industrial truckload of visual effects and flashing lights.

You might be wondering in what way that can help improve the overall Tetris experience. You can play Tetris Effect without the need of a visor, but playing the damn thing on VR mode is one of the trippiest gaming experiences I’ve ever had. While VR implementation does absolutely nothing in terms of gameplay additions as all of your inputs are limited to the Dualshock 4 with no motion controls, the combination of wacky 3D visuals and psychedelic music are more than enough to immerse in a way very few VR games managed to.

Tetris® Effect_20181111184426

They need to release the trippy imagery from the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey as DLC.

There’s a drawback to this, however. There are moments where Tetris Effect goes overboard with the amount of lighting effects onscreen. I have never had a seizure in my life, but there were moments in which the strobing lights were so strong I was starting to feel a little pain on my eyes, as well as a little headache. I was expecting for Ace Combat 7 to be the first VR game to make me feel unwell, but Tetris took that trophy home. A person with the slightest case of epilepsy needs to stay away from this game, as some effects are just too intense.

If I had to list one major flaw regarding Tetris Effect, it would be the lack of multiplayer. There’s support for online leaderboards but there’s no way to play against another player, be it locally or online. Multiplayer has always been a main staple of the Tetris franchise, with some iterations of the game being regarded as e-sports; not including one of the best competitive puzzle experiences in gaming history in what could have easily been the magnum opus of the series is a huge mistake.

Tetris® Effect_20181111182755

Tetris and jazz go along as well as anime about space cowboys and jazz.

Is Tetris Effect the best iteration of Tetris ever created? Maybe not the best, but it’s easily one a top contender. This psychedelic gaming experience is something you have to see for yourself in order to believe how good it is, but the lack of some features like a simple multiplayer mode is staggering to say the least. If you have a PSVR, this game is a must. Just stay away from it if you have had instances of epilepsy in the past.


Graphics: 9.5

Tetris Effect‘s trippy visuals are a sight to behold, but some of the more intense effects can actually give you an eye strain.

Gameplay: 9.5

The good old Tetris gameplay with the addition of a neat gimmick. A few hindrances may be caused due to the excess of visual effects happening onscreen, but nothing that severe.

Sound: 10

Just like Lumines and Rez before it, Tetris Effect features a fantastic soundtrack comprised of tunes from all genres. They’re also synched with your movements.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Tetris Effect is a brand new take on what’s basically the most perfect puzzle game ever conceived, but the lack of a multiplayer mode is ridiculous to say the least.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Tetris Effect is available now on PS4 / PSVR.
Reviewed on PSVR.