Review: Tetris Effect
Bigger, bolder and gorgeous to look at.
There are certain videogames almost everyone the world over is likely to have played at least once, Snake is one while Tetris would also make that list. The puzzle title has been around for over 30 years, supporting practically every platform imaginable, receiving a virtual reality (VR) makeover in 2018 for PlayStation VR by Enhance Games, Resonair and Monstars Inc. called Tetris Effect. The version kept the classic gameplay and gave it a visual and audio overhaul which instantly impressed. VRFocus didn’t review that version at the time, so with the launch on PC via the Epic Games store supporting Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, it was time to dive back in.
Just like the PlayStation version, the PC edition is designed for 2D monitor gameplay with optional VR support for those that have the hardware. The PC version comes with a bunch of enhancements over the console version, with a lot of them concentrating on the visuals. So if you have the right kit, on a monitor you can enjoy 4k resolution among the very fancy features.
So before heading into VR, it’s worth checking the videogame out in 2D – whether you have a 4k monitor or not – as it’ll make you appreciate the VR experience even more. This opinion might sound a little biased towards VR but while Tetris Effect does look pretty on a flat screen and sound alright, grabbing a headset and heading into its virtual world is like night and day.
Whenever the words ‘compatible with…’ or ‘also supports…’ appear alongside a VR title it conjures up thoughts of a tacked-on experience. A videogame designed for flat monitors and then the developer thought about VR at the end. However, with Tetris Effect, this almost feels reversed. As if the developers thought ‘this would be awesome in VR’ and then thought about overall sales and made it suitable for those yet to embrace VR tech.
This is all down to what else has been done to modernise the experience. This is still Tetris after all. The same seven Tetrimino pieces fall, and you have to interlock them to make a scoring line, with the goal being as big a high score as possible. As you progress the pieces fall faster and should they make it to the top then its game over. There are new features to play with, such as storing a vital piece – generally the long straight on – for when it’s needed most. Plus you have the ‘Zone’ mechanic to stop time, highly useful for getting out of tricky situations or simply use it to improve the score.
Not only that, but there are modes galore depending on how you want the gameplay altered. Journey Mode is the core 30+ campaign which is a good starting point. Delving deeper there are the ‘Effect Modes’, first split into four, Classic, Relax, Focus and Adventurous, all of which have further sub-modes to play with. Plenty to keep most players busy. Then there’s the rather cool world map which shows you everyone else playing.
But why is the VR version the best? Well, it all comes down to how the audio and visuals work together. All the levels start with a little subtle imagery, a swimming dolphin here or the twinkling of lights there. As you move the pieces, spinning them around and dropping them into place, you’ll notice little audible cues that intertwine each and every action with the virtual world developing around you. Then as you start to clear lines – especially in groups of four – all of this begins to build into a giant crescendo of light, colour and sound. Not in a distracting way that it’ll put you off your game – although sometimes the urge to stop and just take it all in is irresistible – more of an uplifting, adrenaline-inducing occurrence, heightening the whole experience. None of which resonates from the 2D version, it’s a feeling only VR can provide (which the screenshots don’t do justice to).
Tetris Effect has lost none of the prime gameplay quality that the series is known for, it’s still as addictive and difficult to stop playing as ever. Quite frankly, Tetris Effect is the best version of Tetris. Just as important, the title suits experienced and new VR players alike. The former get hours of engrossing gameplay while the latter get to see why VR is worth getting into. Just remember to take the headset off once in a while.