A genuine part of gaming history, Tetris will be remembered for many things: as a revolutionary concept that had inaugurated the tile-matching craze, a game that successfully combined the need for dexterity and genuine skills in combinatorics, as well as a supreme addictiveness that had kept millions of gamers glued to the screens for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, stunning graphics and visual variety aren’t among them, since in the most iterations, Tetris had featured bland and rather unimaginative presentation. However, the game consisting of rudimentary geometric shapes falling down the screen doesn’t have necessarily to be so uninspiring and repetitive, which is something that Tetris Effect by Enhance (expertly lead by legendary Japanese game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi) unequivocally proved.
What is Tetris Effect? On the first glance, some of you would undoubtedly remark that it’s a just plain old Tetris with some glitzy makeup and flashy effects added. Well, that’s where you’d be wrong. It’s hard to put into words the whole scope of this particular version of famous classics, but let’s agree that it’s a unique synesthetic experiment that involves visuals, music, lights, sounds, and vibrations of your controller, elevating this time-honored concept into spheres of transcendental beauty and cosmic psychedelia. At its core may lie the familiar Tetris game mechanics (although there too had been some changes), but with so much new things going on, this artistic performance seems as if it’s sending you some deep, subliminal messages, equally stimulating your sense of beauty, agility, and intellect.
Now, let’s talk about the gameplay first, and then we can fully dedicate our attention to the audio/visual component that’s creating this unique space and time psychedelic trip. Just like in original version of the game, each level consists of tetromino geometric shapes which are falling down at a certain speed. Your goal is to rotate and match them in the correct way like puzzle pieces, clearing line after line until you finish the level. After that, you start again, much in the same way, only with the increased speed. Rinse and repeat fashion. However, unlike the original version, Tetris Effect had introduced one handy feature that will help you in the matching process. As the tetromino shape is slowly falling down, its luminous outline can be seen at the bottom of the screen, so you’re able to exactly see where it will land and how it will match into the existing pieces. A thing that will baffle you at times, especially if you’ve used to the constancy of the previous versions of the Tetris are sudden variations in the speed. Unlike its predecessors, where the speed of the tiles progressively increased as the levels advanced, here tiles are unpredictably changing the speed and tempo of their freefall as if they actually represent the geometrical embodiment of some temperamental musical piece. Another novelty is introduced in the Journey mode which serves as a sort of main campaign of Tetris Effect. It’s called Zone and it will allow you to freeze the time for a while (this effect can be activated by clearing the lines), allowing you to match the pieces at your leisure and at the same time awarding you the bonus points.
All this adds a welcome new layer to the familiar gameplay and makes it challenging in the previously unimaginable ways. However, the most impressive thing about Tetris Effect is the way this whole experience is presented to the players. You’ll start in the darkness, broken only by shiny, swirling particles which will somehow remind you of the deep sea. Then, as you advance with the game, the particles will become more defined, solidifying into the shoals of the small fish. As the things are speeding up, the rays appear followed by the slow humpback whales swimming majestically across the background of some planet. At that sublime moment when music changes and vocals introduce the measure of order into the amorphous music, you realize that this isn’t just the ordinary ocean but perhaps some sort of lunar sea. After that point, you understand you’re not on an everyday trip, but something more sublime, as the sceneries change, substituted by the kaleidoscopic images of dancing geometric forms, dolphins racing and jumping across some endless ocean, strange windmill-like areal ships, interchanging panoramas of scorching deserts and freezing planetary surfaces, delicate mist-enveloped forests, mesmerizing fractal images, dazzling particle fireworks and much, much more.
Of course, the tiles themselves will correspond to these changes of the scenery, transforming from soft, fizzy shapes to mechanic gears and countless other forms, as if they were alive themselves. The enhanced gameplay aside, this is what makes Tetris effect truly spellbinding and transcendental experience. It might sound strange, but the thing that will motivate most of the players to replay this extraordinary Journey isn’t the gameplay, but the chance to bring back over and over again those precious moments and images which will remain brilliantly etched on your retina long after you’ve finished with the game. Tetris Effect has been exclusively released for PlayStation 4 a few days ago, and we can just hope – nay, pray – that the owners of other platforms will also be able to experience this glorious trip. Enhance and Tetsuya Mizuguchi – consider this a formal request.